January, 2003

With reports this month from Wanderlust on 12,000 miles in 10 months in the Atlantic and Med; from aboard Danza on the life of a 13-year-old girl during a circumnavigation; from Althea on cruising the Caribbean and Venezuela; from Marta Jensen on the Loreto Fest; from Sharika on cruising the Western Med almost by mistake; plus the most Cruise Notes ever.

Wanderlust - Hunter 466
Mike Harker
10 Months, 12,000 Ocean Miles
(Manhattan Beach)

The new Hunter 466 model was presented to the public for the first time at last February's Miami Boat Show. Wanderlust, a sistership that was soon to become mine, had been launched a few days before the show and was used to give first time sailors an opportunity to sail as part of the 'Discover Sailing' program. The program was such a tremendous success that it will be repeated at the Miami Show this year.

After the show, Wanderlust was sailed back to St. Augustine for further commissioning and outfitting before Hunter's delivery captain, 'Boomer' Baumeister, and I took her on a sea trial across the Gulf Stream. Further outfitting and adjustments were made at Whitney's Marine, the Hunter dealer in Jacksonville, Florida. Delays in getting the boat just right meant that I ended up having to make the 4,000-mile trip across the Atlantic - via Bermuda, the Azores, Portugal, and Gibraltar - singlehanded. My previous singlehanded experience had been doing the Baja Bash following the '00 Ha-Ha with my Hunter 340, also called Wanderlust.

Here's a breakdown of that crossing: Six days from Jacksonville to Bermuda, where I slept for two days straight. Thirteen days from Bermuda to Horta, Azores. After three days of sleeping and eating, I moved a little bit east along the island chain to Puerto del Gato, then took five days to sail to Lagos, Portugal, and later to Gibraltar. During the crossing, I benefitted from Herb Hilgenberg's weather forecasts and routing.

My ultimate goal was Ibiza, a Spanish island to the south of Barcelona. I made the trip there with the doctor and lawyer who had been my crew on the Ha-Ha. I then spent four months in the Med with four to six people living aboard, filming a 12-episode series for German television. In the process, we left seven western Med islands in our wake: Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. We also cruised the Italian Riviera near Portofino, France's Cote d' Azur, and Spain's Costa Bravo. This travelling put another 3,000 miles on the boat's log.

At the end of summer, I began a 4,000-mile trip from Ibiza back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. I went by way of Gibraltar, Morocco, the Canary Islands, the Cape Verdes, and ended up at Antigua, the Caribbean jewel. While in the Canaries, I picked up two crew, a 23-year-old Swede and a 25-year-old German, based on their having posted 'berths wanted' notices at the marina gate. The first 1,700 miles of our crossing was great, but then the rotary motor failed on the autopilot, requiring us to handsteer the last 1,000 miles. We arrived in Antigua in just under 18 days. Even with the autopilot problems, the westbound trip across the Atlantic was easier than the eastbound trip.

At Hunter's request, Wanderlust was shown at the huge Nicholson's Charterboat Show at historic English Harbor in Antigua during early December. She was well received. Antigua Sailing Week, in late April and early May, will be my next television project for H-TV.

The February Miami Boat Show will herald the return of Wanderlust to the United States after her 'Atlantic circle' and Western Med cruise. In the 10 months and 12,000 miles, virtually nothing went wrong with the boat or gear - other than normal wear and chafe. The only exceptions were: reinforcement being needed on the batten pockets for the main, an adjustment being necessary on the watermaker's salinity meter, and having to replace the autopilot's rotary motor. I'd like to salute Hunter for the 466, and all the gear manufacturers for their equipment. There were: Doyle Sails for the fully battened main, jib, genoa, and genniker; ProFurl for furling systems for the main, jib, genoa, and gennaker; RayMarine for the radar, GPS, autopilot, and other instruments; Interphase for the forward looking sonar. Nobeltec for the navigation and world vector charts; Lewmar for winches, hatches, and ports; Harken for blocks and the traveller; Northern Lights for the 6KW 110-volt generator; Trojan for the 800 amp/hours of batteries; Spectra for the watermaker; Flex-O-Fold for the 20-inch, 3-blade folding prop; Wavestopper & Canvas by Boatswains Locker; Icom for the SSB and Pactor III modem; Mercury for the 9.9 hp outboard; and Valiant for the dinghy.

I welcome visitors to come aboard Wanderlust during the Miami Boat Show to see for themselves how my Hunter 466 and her equipment handled the trip.

- mike

Mike - May we be among the first to tip our hat to you for such an ambitious year of sailing - so much of it singlehanded, and so much of it while you were working.

Danza - 60-ft Steel Ketch
Sarah Nutt (13)
Young Circumnavigator's Day
(Edgecomb, Maine)

I sleepily poked my head out of the companionway and smelled the smoky air from one of the village fires as it wafted across the calm, clear water. Glancing at the sun rising above the horizon, I headed back down to start school and another day in paradise. That's right, another day in paradise!

My family and I are circumnavigating aboard Danza, our 60-foot steel ketch - which happens to be a sistership to the original British Steel that Chay Blyth singlehanded around the world in 1971. We left our home in Edgecomb, Maine, on March 25, 2000. As you might assume, my brothers David, 15, Jasper, 12, my sister Charlotte, 7, and I, 13, have a very different lifestyle from most kids in the world. We get up and do schoolwork everyday just like other kids, but we work at the salon table, on our parent's bunk, or in the cockpit looking out at turquoise water and stunning islands with long sand beaches.

School takes up most of the morning. We eat breakfast whenever we can - between subjects, during subjects, anytime. Breakfast is a get-it-yourself affair in the main salon, so the galley/salon area can get pretty crowded with six people trying to make food, eat, and study at the same time. We don't take weekends off from school, because we take random days for special events - such as climbing live volcanoes, participating in unusual village happenings, and sometimes, if the wind is perfect, kiteboarding.

Sophie, our French friend, often comes over from her boat to help David and I with our French vocabulary and accents. At this stage, I find math to be easy and can do two or three lessons a day. Science consists of reading and experiments. History, which I read and discuss with Dad, takes an hour every other day. In a typical day, I'll have to write for between 20 minutes and one hour. Naturally, there are the ever-dreaded tests for all subjects. I don't have assigned reading, but we all read at least two hours every day. On rainy days, I'll read three or four books, as sometimes there's just nothing else to do.

Although our schoolday is shorter than back home, it's less fun because our parents are the teachers. Yes, we have fights with our teachers. "This math is totally irrelevant!" one of us kids might say - even though we know algebra is important. Our parents respond with things like, "Well, just get it over with then!" Or, "And you still haven't cleaned your cabin or done the lunch dishes!" Having to go to school onboard - and without classmates or real teachers - is definitely the hardest part of our trip.

We hung out on the boat today until noon, at which time there wasn't enough wind for kiteboarding, so we went wakeboarding. David and I used the VHF to call our friends Eric and Nicole, a young couple on Rainbow Voyager, to invite them along. Before long, they arrived in their dinghy and we spent a happy hour wiping out while attempting new tricks. While we were having fun wakeboarding, Mom was ashore with her friend Patricia from Tania, Jasper and Charlotte were in the bosons' chairs hanging from spinnaker halyards and swinging across the water, and Dad was watching us from the cockpit - and probably taking pictures with his digital camera. After we finished wakeboarding, we returned to Danza for hot showers, socializing, and eating crackers and cheese. Cold cheese and hot showers - how nice!

At 4 p.m., it was time to head up to the village for a feast that the locals were putting together for us. We watched them preparing the kava by pounding it, adding water, and then straining it through an old T-shirt. While the village women prepared the laplap and other food, Jasper and I headed over to watch Australians Xan, 14, from Velella, and Peter, 14, from First Light, shooting at trees with their slingshots. Later, David showed me a beautiful woodcarving - the nicest that I've seen so far. Dad was over with the other grown-ups taking photographs, like always.

After a few hours of socializing, we were called to wash up and sit around the beautiful feast that had been prepared. After eating, we shot the slingshots a bit more - although it was hard in the dark. After thanking the chief for the feast, we headed back to Xan's boat to play a loud, physical, and cheating game of Monopoly. At around 11:15 p.m., we decided that our game was just going in circles, so we headed back to Danza. After hauling the dinghy out of the water, we plopped ourselves in our bunks and slept soundly. It was just a typical day for us kids in our circumnavigation.

My parents are taking us on this circumnavigation because they want to raise their family in an alternative lifestyle from that of Maine. My dad had been the owner of David Nutt, Boatbuilder, Inc., and had been building boats for 28 years in the Boothbay area. Judy Sandick, my mom, had been an internist and emergency room physician at Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta, Maine. I was 11-years-old when we left, and loved my home, school, friends, and everything. I was a 'normal' kid and very happy to be where I was, but my parents wanted to be out here - and my brothers were keen as well. Charlotte was too young to have a preference. I still don't want to be out here, but I try to make the best of it.

I realize that most of the time we are doing something amazing, but it still doesn't stop me from missing my friends and the life back home. We are getting to see different cultures and different lifestyles, which is teaching us that you don't have to have much or the very latest in gadgets and equipment to have fun. We also get to meet fascinating people, both other yachties and locals. A few weeks ago, for instance, we met an islander from a little village without roads or vehicles who had nonetheless become a successful boxer in Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand. We met another guy who had become a very good soccer player, which allowed him to travel to loads of different places. Both of them came from a village where schooling stops at the fourth grade.

The villages we're visiting now aren't like the little towns back in Maine. In many places here, the people live in palm-thatched huts and own just one pair of shorts and one T-shirt - and that one with holes in it. They cook over fires on the dirt floor in the middle of the huts, so there is always a lot of smoke. They grow their own vegetables in little gardens, and raise cows for milk and pigs for meat. They don't have things such as ovens, running water, computers, televisions, proper toilets or showers. Despite having just about the minimum to sustain life, they are always smiling and waving, and welcoming us to their village. They love to make feasts for visitors, and like to trade beautiful carvings for T-shirts and school supplies. The fact that they are so happy with so little makes us wonder about how much material stuff we really need.

I guess my life sounds like a dream come true to a lot of kids. It is pretty nice, but we do have to go to sea. That means that we all feel miserable and throw up for the first few days. While sailling offshore, we don't have a set watch during the daylight hours, we just set the timer for 12 minutes. Whoever is closest to the companionway gets up to look around for ships and other hazards, then resets the timer. At night, David, Mum, Dad, and I all have regular watches. David goes from 7:30 p.m., which is after dinner, until 11 p.m. He likes long watches. I stand from around 11 p.m. until 2 a.m. Mum goes after me till around 5 a.m., then Dad takes over until somebody else wakes up - which is usually about 8 a.m. Even when he's not on watch, Dad is always up at night to check the bilge, sail trim, and all the things that dads and captains check.

For those of you living a normal life back in the States, this is going to sound weird, but the most exciting thing that happens all day, the thing we spend our whole day planning, is when we're going to drink the one Coke we're allowed per day. It's pretty funny how important it is to us, but it is. David is the only one who does schooling on passages, the rest of us just read - but we read a ton. We also watch movies, sleep, and every once in a while we eat. Dad is the only one who normally likes food on passages. As soon as he sees us starting to feel sick, he prepares us big bowls of potatoes, soup, or something with just a little flavor. He's all cheery when he does this, and has a big smile on his face when he hands us our bowls. What we really want to do right then and there is chuck the bowls overboard.

But we manage to survive our passages, and spend most of our time at anchor enjoying life - such as it is on our way around the world.

- sara 11/15/02

Althea - S&S 35
Mark & Laurie Matthews

Laurie and I originally left San Francisco in 1997 aboard Radiance, a 26-foot Westerly Centaur sloop that we'd picked up in deplorable condition at a lien sale. After fixing her up, we spent two years cruising Central America, Panama, and up the Western Caribbean before crash-landing in Charleston, South Carolina. We worked in Charleston for two years, sold our little boat, and then went down to Florida to buy Althea, a 1964 Chris Craft 35. Although primarily known for building powerboats, Chris Craft did build a range of sailboats. The interesting thing about Althea is that she was also sailed to the East Coast from Sausalito. In fact, she'd been owned by friends of ours who had her berthed two docks away at Clipper Yacht Harbor in Sausalito!

Fortunately, we haven't had too much drama on the high seas since leaving Florida with our new-to-us boat. After stopping in the Bahamas, we had a relatively uneventful - other than one night of lightning and about 35 knots of wind - eight-day sail to Culebra, Puerto Rico. We then continued east to the British Virgins to meet family and friends. After that, we sailed down island to St. Maarten, St. Barts, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Marti-nique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, and Grenada. Knowing that a new language and culture is only a couple of hours sail away - as is the case in the Eastern Caribbean - spoils you for the long stretches ahead.

Naturally, there are way too many stories to tell from our down island trip, such as dolphins playing in the bow wave, phosphorescent wakes, 40,000 ants climbing up the shorepower cord, and rats scurrying in the boatyard to our cat Luna's delight. We most remember the French islands for the way we inhaled the delicious croissants and chocolate, and for our mangling of their language. While at Dominica, we took the hike of a lifetime - a 14-mile up and down march through dense tropical forest and lots of mud. Ultimately, we hiked down into a volcano crater to see the largest boiling lake in the world. My feet still hurt thinking about it.

While in Grenada, friends and family visited again. There was an unfortunate incident at a hotel room ashore, however, as someone broke in and took laptops, cell phones, cameras, cash, a pineapple, and peanuts. A police officer came to take a report. Since he was barefoot, wearing a T-shirt and sweat pants, and carried his loaded pistol in his front pocket, we're not holding our breath that the stuff will be recovered. It's a good thing that we mailed our insurance premium in on time. Despite the theft, it had been great to see everyone. After our friends left, there was a steel drum band competition - sometimes with as many as 70 musicians in one band - and lots of other Carnival activities.

Our arrival here in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, was something of a controlled crash-landing in the marina, as the transmission cable parted, leaving us in forward gear. We managed to snake our way into a slip without causing a lot of damage. Unfortunately, you pretty much have to check into a marina here for safety reasons, as there have been a number of boardings and Venezuela is on the verge of chaos. 'Boarding', by the way, is a Caribbean euphemism for anything from someone prying open a hatch on an unoccupied boat to hitting you over the head with a coffee can full of rocks while you sleep. We've met people who have endured both, but we've been cautious and lucky so far.

We're not sure, but we think we're bound for California. Right now, however, our boat is hauled out at Puerto La Cruz. We're having the hull painted in the hope that she'll look good enough to be able to sneak into yacht clubs as we continue on. In the meantime, we're enjoying 28-cent/gallon diesel in a country where leaded gas is still available. Huge sedans not seen in the United States since the '70s - the Conquistador, the LTD, the Marquis, the Malibu, and the Caprice Classic - rule the local roads. The taxi drivers who operate many of these 'land yachts' often croon along with similarly ancient pop hits from the likes of Laura Branigan, Chicago, and Huey Lewis. Crooning is the wrong word, as the non English-speaking drivers mangle the songs in a language all their own.

The rules of the road in Venezuela can be summed up in the phrase "El ley is mi ley" - or 'my law is the law'. This philosophy permits driving the wrong way down one-way streets, ignoring red lights, and passing from the right, left, or center lanes. None of this bothers the police.

Four lanes of traffic converging on an intersection without a single working light becomes a vehicular scrum, where the driver with the loudest horn, quickest reflexes, and wildest hand gestures emerges first. Hand gestures are important in Venezuela. If the driver in front of you hangs an arm out the window and shakes it wildly, he's warning you to be on guard because he's about to attempt a free-form driving maneuver. Facial gestures can be equally important. If you get lost and ask for directions, pursed lips to the left means that you should turn left; pursed lips to the right means you should turn right; and a straight ahead kissing motion means you should continue the way you're going.

What makes driving more complicated in Venezuela is that the roads aren't exactly clear. For example, at most intersections some chamos - Venezuelan for 'dude' - will be selling beer along with the guys hawking newspapers. In addition, all along the roads there are people flogging pirated DVDs, blood pressure equipment, shoes - whatever might have fallen off the delivery truck that day.

Oil is king in Venezuela. Long pipelines snake out of towns to large tankers that will carry full loads to the United States. Venezuela is the third largest oil exporter to the United States and the fifth largest in the world. Big oil flares dot the horizon, and for somewhere in the neighborhood of $33,000 a day, you too can rent an oil rig. Only the state run oil company can drill for oil, however.

The haves and have-nots of Venezuela are usually divided by whether or not they work in the oil industry. The country is run by President Hugo Chavez, who is a bit of a nut case, and who is back in power after a weird coup attempt failed in April of last year. Chavez can be seen on television making policy statements while holding a pair of pliers and making World Wrestling Federation-style gestures about what he's going to do to his opponents. Despite the extreme poverty in much of the country, Chavez has big plans for a . . . space program! Right now he's got more problems on earth, where there are major pro-democracy rallies being held all over the country. It's impossible to tell where things will go from here.

The sailing has been good for the last year, although getting down here to the Caribbean, and now Venezuela, meant bucking the trades most of the time. Now that we'll probably start heading west again, we should have the wind from aft. We are hoping the boatyard will be finished with painting our boat in two or three weeks, but meantime we are spending our nights ashore in a sixth floor apartment with a 360-degree view of the city, sea, mountains - and occasionally parrots that fly by. The apartment is being loaned to us by our adopted Venezuelan family, and we're thankful for it, as it's 96° outside in the boatyard.

Once our boat gets back in the water, we'll sail to some of the Venezuela's offshore islands before continuing on to Curaçao, Bonaire, Aruba, and then the San Blas Islands of Panama.

- mark & laurie

Loreto Fest
Marta Jensen - Reunion
Puerto Escondido, Baja
(Sea of Cortez)

In the 'better late than never' category, Marta Jensen reports that some 150 boats attended May's Loreto Fest 2002 at Puerto Escondido. While there were ham radio tests, fun and games, and endless socializing, the highlight of the event - and the reason it was founded - was for cruisers to do a clean-up of the harbor. Seventy-five folks signed up as official participants and filled bags full of refuse. Having cleaned the harbor up for a number of years in a row now, it's not as easy as it used to be to find big stuff. The Loreto Fest is sponsored by the Hidden Harbor YC, and will be held on May 2-5 this year, giving everyone time to make it up following Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, which will be held in the second week of April.

If we could humbly make a suggestion to the cruisers in the Sea of Cortez, it would be that they or one of the yacht clubs or other sailing organizations in the area get serious about doing beach clean-ups at all the anchorages in the Sea of Cortez. Environmental organizations are finally starting to get a little traction - and money - in the Sea of Cortez, and they represent the entire spectrum of philosophies from moderate to extreme. Indeed, there are some environmental groups that are dedicated to making all of the islands in the Sea of Cortez off-limits to all visitors, cruisers included. We think that the best way to prevent this is by cruisers proactively and publicly demonstrating a committment to bettering the environment in the Sea - by having an annual clean-up of all - or almost all - anchorages in the Sea. It's not as if there are that many or that there aren't enough cruisers to do the job easily. And the risks of not doing something are too great. There is still time for cruisers to be seen as stakeholders in the solution to the Sea of Cortez's problems rather than part of the problem itself, but that time is slipping away.

Anybody interested in preserving this great and unique cruising area? It's possible that Profligate could be available for this project during the first week in April, the week before the start of Sea of Cortez Sailing Week.

- latitude 38 12/15/02


Sharika - Contest 38
Terry & Shari Owen
Cruising The Med

Some people spend 10 years planning a cruise. Then there's Terry and Shari Owen, formerly of Los Altos but currently of Belmont and the South of France. The couple, who have sailed the Bay for 30 years with the same Coyote Point-based Ericson 27 Tango II, came to cruising entirely by accident. That they ended up cruising in the Med - and plan to do so for at least three more summers - was even more happenstance.

Terry explains that the couple's fall into cruising began innocently enough when he accompanied fellow Coyote Point YC member Larry Tauscher on a boat hunt to the East Coast. Tauscher had spent two years cruising from San Francisco to the Carolinas, where he sold his original boat, and was back east looking for a larger replacement. "While helping Tauscher look for a new boat, I stumbled across a Wauquiez 38 that I really liked, and in the process caught the cruising bug," says Terry.

He didn't have to work hard to convince his wife Shari to go along with the idea, so he started searching up and down the coast and even back east. Oddly enough, although they were searching for a cruising boat, they didn't have any place in particular they wanted to cruise. They were just going to start wherever they found the boat.

After inspecting a Swedish-made Hallberg-Rassy in Berkeley, they fell in love with the Northern European style of cruising boat. Since there aren't many of those in the States, Terry logged on to the Internet and began looking for boats in Europe. Before long, he'd come up with a list of four candidates, one each in France and England, and two in Spain.

Two summers ago, the Owens flew to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, to look at a Hallberg-Rassy, then continued on to Port Grimaud, which is located in the same little bay as St. Tropez, France. A broker showed them a Ted Hood-designed Wauquiez 38, but they didn't care for the layout. They did, however, spot a center-cockpit Contest 38 - a top pedigree boat built in Holland - they liked. The boat wasn't in the best of shape - in fact, not long before her mast had fallen over at the dock! When the Owens saw the boat, she'd just been fitted with a replacement mast and new teak decks.

Other than some old systems, the biggest problem with the boat is that she wasn't for sale. However, the owner was in his 90s. And the other berthers at upscale Port Grimaud didn't look kindly on somebody who allowed their boat to go to the point that her mast fell over at the dock, damaging several other boats. To make a long story short, the Owens made an offer, there was a counter offer, and in the end a bid of $89,000 was accepted. This was about $30,000 below market for similar Contests, but the money saved went to upgrading some of the systems. Having owned the boat for nearly 18 months, the Owens couldn't be more pleased.

The Owens think that boats might be just a little less expensive in Europe - assuming they are about 10 years old. "When Europeans buy boats in Europe, they have to pay 18% VAT (value added tax), so if they sell a boat in three to five years, they expect to recoup it. For an American who doesn't have to pay VAT, it would be cheaper to buy the same boat brand new rather than add 18% to the price of a recent used model. So when it comes to recent model European boats, it's mostly Europeans buying them."

The most difficult thing about buying a boat in Europe turned out to be the U.S. Coast Guard. Since their new boat had been registered in Germany, the Owens needed to get her reflagged in the U.S. After starting with phone calls, Terry was able to download all the necessary forms on the Internet. The problem was that the Coast Guard demanded to see the original German documentation which was hard to get. When they did get it, they couldn't read it because - duh! - it was in German. Ultimately, Terry went to a library and used a German dictionary to translate it the best he could - and the Coast Guard accepted it! There was only one other small hitch, caused by the fact that the German seller's name means 'seller' in German. When all was said and done, it took about a month to complete the reflagging. By the way, the couple said the buying and reflagging process was made easier by the fact they'd read letters in Latitude by couples who had previously done it.

After the deal closed and the boat was rechristened Sharika, the couple spent two months on a mini cruise that only took them as far as Cannes and Nice - just 75 miles to the east of Port Grimaud. But they enjoyed themselves. After they secured the boat for the winter in Port Grimaud, they couldn't wait to return.

For folks planning on cruising in the Western Med, the Owens say there are two 'bibles'. The first are the Imray Coast Pilots, which are in English. Four were required to cover the Western Med. In addition, they highly recommend the French pilot, Livre de Bord. Although the latter is written in French and includes minute details, Terry says that it was easy to understand.

As good as the 'bibles' are, much of their best information came by word of mouth, starting with veteran cruisers who belonged to the Port Grimaud YC. "We weren't members of the club," say the Owens, "but they included us in all their activities, included their Friday night meetings." About 30% of the members were French, while 70% were from other European countries. The Owens were the only Americans. Nonetheless, many of the Europeans spoke English, and all of them were very friendly. "They bent over backwards to help us, and are such wonderful people. It was from them that we got lots of great information about what kind of itinerary to have, where to anchor, what marinas to stop at, and so forth."

When the Owens resumed cruising in June of last year, their only specific goal was to include a stop at Barcelona, Spain. Based on the prevailing wind directions - such as they are in the Med - and recommendations of their new European cruising friends, they decided on a clockwise trip that took them to Villefranche, France; Menton, where the French and Italian Rivieras meet; Corsica; Sardinia; the Balearic Islands; Barcelona, Spain; and back to Port Grimaud. It would be approximately 1,200 miles to cover in five months. The Owens almost immediately fell behind schedule because they loved each stop so much they cold barely tear themselves away.

If you were going to cruise the Med, one of your major concerns would be whether or not you'd be able to find space in a marina when the weather turned sour. The Owens aren't sure if the marinas were less full because of a post 9/11 drop off in tourism, but finding space in a marina turned out never to be a problem. Not even during August in Mallorca, which is the busiest month in the busiest place.

The Owens elected to stay in marinas about 60% of the time, and anchor out the other 40%. During the high season - which started in June and ended at the end of September - they found prices to be low for boats 12 meters or less, moderate for boats 15 meters or less, and expensive for boats over 15 meters. They typically paid about $1 U.S. per foot per night. In a few places, such as Alcudia, Mallorca, berthing ran as much as $45/night. On the other hand, during the low season the berth fees plummeted. For example, they got a spectacular berth right along the promenade at Cannes for just $13.50 a night!

Berthing turned out to be their biggest single expense, but need not have been. In most places, there were also anchorages nearby. The exceptions were on the windward sides of Corsica and Sardinia, where they almost had to stay in a marina or run the risk of finding themselves anchored on a windy lee shore.

After starting from Port Grimaud, the couple worked their way east to Villefranche, a beautiful little bay between Nice and Monaco that used to be home to the U.S. Sixth fleet. "Villefranche was fantastic!" they say. "One time we spent 10 days there, and another time we spent five days." They spent all their time on the hook - along with hundreds of other boats, from dinghies to the world's largest megayachts. From the nearby little station at Beaulieu sur Mer, it was a quick train ride to Monaco.

When the Owens got to Italy, they were tickled by how well visitors were treated by the marina staffs. "Usually someone in a little boat would come out to meet us before we even got inside the marina, and then would guide us to our slip. By the time we were pulling in, they'd have already gotten out of their little boat and were taking our docklines!" Marinas in Italy tend to offer higher levels of service than in other countries.

The Owens came across other cultural differences. In the beginning, for example, both Terry and Shari were a little startled to see that adult women thought absolutely nothing of getting completely undressed to take a shower on the marina docks. So going topless didn't even raise an eyebrow. "After a while you just get used to it," says Terry, "and even Shari began to follow some of the European customs."

"If a woman wore a one-piece suit, she was almost stared at because she seemed overdressed," laughs Shari. "But there was a similar standard for men. If a guy wore a regular swimming suit, he looked frumpy. Men have to wear little Speedos."

Smoking was another cultural surprise. "We couldn't believe how many people still smoked, and that they smoked everywhere." On the nicer side, the couple enjoyed seeing entire families going for evening strolls together, often walking hand in hand. "Even the teenagers joined them."

The Owens had no problems with port officials. "They were fantastic," says Terry. "Very professional, and there weren't any big fees. The only minor hassle we had was at one place in Sardinia, where the port official made me check in with the Coast Guard. When I finally found the Coast Guard office, the officer on duty gave me a look that said, "Why are you here bothering me?" Since Terry had showed up, they guy was forced to fill out some forms.

Some cruisers claim that the Med is notorious for not having any wind. "There's plenty of wind," disagrees Terry. "In fact, we sailed about 50% of the time. But it usually blows less than seven knots or more than 20 knots. The other thing is that there are huge windshifts, particularly on the passages of more than 200 miles. An abrupt windshift of 180° is not unusual."

"One thing that took us by surprise," says Shari, "were that the waves were so steep and close together. You'd have to get 20 miles away from land for the swells to spread out even a little."

"Another reason we rarely sailed close to the shore - much of which was quite beautiful - is that there was a countless number of fishing nets," says Terry. "In anything less than 100 meters, there were so many nets it was unbelievable. We even saw them in water as deep as 140 meters!"

When dining or buying groceries, the Owens found that prices were quite reasonable. Spain was the least expensive, Italy was second, and France was the most expensive. "Even France wasn't bad, as you could get a five-course gourmet meal in a French restaurant for $30 each," says Shari. "I'm talking about a two-hour, truly gourmet meal."

Shopping for groceries was also fun, and the food less expensive than in the States. "In France and Italy, they have all these little butcher and veggie shops with great stuff. And many places had farmers' markets. So we never ate any frozen foods. In addition, you could buy lots of entrees or meals that were ready to eat. Several times we bought freshly cooked pork roasts for $7 to take back to the boat. Combined with wonderful fresh vegetables, this would be a meal for three nights. There were lots of other reasonably priced prepared foods almost everywhere, so we rarely had to cook on the boat. It was fantastic. Despite all the wonderful food, we both lost weight!"

When it came time to get more money to buy food, the Owens did all their banking online. "It worked great," they say, "as Internet cafes were everywhere. The rates ranged in prices from $2/hour, which was very low, to $10/hour, which was very high."

After the French and Italian Rivieras, the couple sailed down to Corsica, which they were pleasantly pleased to fall in love with. In fact, they spent an entire month there. In particular, they both took a real liking to Calvi, which has an old town, a new town, and a moderate amount of tourism. "While anchored off Calvi, we were surprised to find that little boats came out to do things such as collect garbage and sell croissants. It was here that we realized that Europeans aren't so hectic, and seem to savor life more than most Americans. On the other side of the coin, it also means you can only get one thing done a day. A couple of times we tried getting two things done in a day," Terry laughs, "but it just wasn't possible."

One of Terry's favorite stops was Alghero, Sardinia. "It wasn't that big, but it had an old walled city and a more modern part. It was just neat. Plus the food was fantastic, as I had the best steak I've ever eaten in Europe."

"The beef isn't very good in Europe," Shari explains, "but at Alghero it was very good. While there, we ended up next to an Italian family that we'd been berthed next to at the previous marina, so we became friends. They had named their boat Miami, of all things. Having become friends, they then showed us what a real Italian dinner is like. The couple had to work to speak English, but their daughter - like most young Europeans - was pretty fluent in English."

Shari's favorite stop was Barcelona, where they spent another entire month. "I love the diversity of that city, from the people to the food to the architecture. Everything about that city is wonderful. I loved the wide boulevards and the provisions for cyclists. Lots of people ride bikes, and so did we. We carried two folding bikes on the boat, and they got a lot of use over the summer."

While both Terry and Shari loved almost every place they visited, they were a little down on Alcudia, Mallorca. "It was too crowded, too touristy, and too expensive - it reminded us of Waikiki."

If Terry, who is in his early 60s, and Shari, who is in her 50s, have any regrets, it's that they didn't start cruising earlier. "We're a little late, but we can't wait to get back to our boat this summer. We plan to spend five months a year in the Med for the next three or four years. We want to go back and do Spain, we want to do the Eastern Med, and I'm from Hungary, so we want to spend a summer up in the Adriatic where my friends and family can visit. Our only problem is that we love every place we go.

Terry said that the couple benefited greatly from Letters and Changes written by cruisers who had previously cruised Europe, and now he'd also like to help. So if anyone has any specific questions on cruising in the Western Med, .

"This wasn't a lifetime dream of ours, but we're delighted with our boat, which can be easily handled by two but can accommodate four. And with cruising in the Western Med, we'd recommend it to anyone."

- latitude 38 12/10/02

Cruise Notes:

We were pleased to get the news from Jimmie Zinn aboard the San Francisco-based Morgan 38 Dry Martini that the Second Annual Zihua Fest is a definite 'go' for January 29-February 2 at beautiful Zihuatanejo Bay. "As with last year's event, the main purpose of all the fun is to raise money to benefit the Netzahualcoyotl Indian School," says Zinn. "Last year we raised $4,000 U.S., and with dollar-for-dollar matching funds from Gloria and Richard Bellack of the Bellack Foundation, we're shooting for a total of $10,000 this year. All donations through the foundation are tax deductible for U.S. taxpayers. A second goal of this year's event is to further the already good relations between the local community and the rapidly growing cruising fleet."

Zihua Fest will start with a no-host kick-off party at Rick's Bar on January 29, at which times shirts, burgees, and the final schedule of activities will be available. On January 30, there will be a 'no stress' Pursuit Race, with prizes for the fastest and slowest boats. Later in the afternoon, there will be a dinghy raft-up and appetizer potluck around and aboard Profligate. Last year this party drew over 125 cruisers. On February 2, there will be a charity sail aboard Profligate for those fun-loving folks willing to cough up some extra pesos to directly benefit the Indian school. If a couple of more cats - such as Wavy and/or Little Wing - participate, there will be a charity race. The fun event will be followed by beach volleyball, a blindfolded dinghy race, a cop-a-feel game (you figure it out), and other fun. The final event, on February 2, will be a Sail Parade, with the fleet dressing ship for a parade to Ixtapa and back, followed by a beach BBQ and party at Las Gatas Beach.

Who is organizing the Zihua Fest? Christopher and Dawn of the Kodiak-based Ingrid 38 Alaskan Sun; Michael and Catharine of the Vancouver-based Contessa 38 Breila; Chris and Becky of the San Francisco-based Pacific Seacraft 40 Bonne Idee; Ed and Daisy aboard the Marathon, Florida-based CSY 40 Siesta; and the previously mentioned Jimmie and Jane of the San Francisco-based Morgan 38 Dry Martini. All but the folks on Alaskan Sun are second year cruisers.

Although the Zihua Fest is still in its embryonic stages, we at Latitude are big supporters. Yes, it's quite a ways south to Zihua from Mexico's Gold Coast, but just about every cruiser who has made the trip will tell you that it's worth it. For one thing, the locals and cruisers just seem to be happier and more carefree in Zihua than anywhere else. So we encourage cruisers to sail south to help raise funds for a terrific cause. If anybody who can't make it down still wants to contribute, they can make their checks out to the Bellack Foundation, note that it's for the Netzahualcoyotl Indian School, and send them to us at Latitude.

What are things like early this season in Z-town? Zinn reports that although it was only the middle of December, some 25 cruising boats were already in the anchorage and many more were expected before Christmas. Rick's Bar, 'cruiser central', has opened for the season and is providing advice and assistance of every kind - as well as killer margaritas and snacks. The very informal Zihuatanejo YC - no dues, no meetings, no officers, and no blazers - is also open and serving up great food and drinks from its beautiful perch overlooking Zihua Bay. Both Rick's and the Yacht Club will be heavily involved in facilitating this year's Sail Fest. There is still no real dinghy dock in Zihuatanejo, but beach landings beside the public muelle are usually uneventful. The landing is located right in front of the local Navy base, so there is a guard to watch over the dinghies. When dinghying ashore this year, folks have to dodge the unfortunate Mariner 35 ketch that went ashore in late September - and is still there. The Port Captain's office has installed a new service window, greatly speeding up the clearing process over last year. An Immigration check-in is also required, but it's fast and efficient. The only delay in the clearing process is the line at the bank, which isn't too bad except on Mondays and Fridays. Want to be really cool in Zihuatanejo? Use 'Zihua' ('zee-wha') for the nickname. The locals take a lot of pride in their town, and don't care for 'Z-town' or 'Z-wat'."

Informative report, Jimmie. Anyone care to make a similar one for Mazatlan, Tenacatita Bay, Bahia Navidad, La Paz, or elsewhere in Mexico? Thousands of readers are interested in updates from these places, too.

"As you can see from the accompanying photograph, we - five singlehanders and one couple on a trawler with lots of fish and ice - got together at Isla Gamez, Panama," reports Steve Cherry of the San Diego-based Formosa 41 Witch of Endor. "Greg White and Meg Jackson of Wet Bar, a 48-foot Offshore Sedan out of Tempe, Arizona, entertained Don Thomas of the Peterson 44 Tamure from Balboa Island; me on Witch of Endor; Schelmi Gier of the Alden 34 Irena from Flensburg, Germany; David Mills of the Pearson 424 Takeitez from Brisbane; and Bob Willmann of the Islander 37 Viva from San Diego."

Thanks for the report and photo, Steve. We've got a real soft spot for all the singlehanding guys out there, and enjoy the chance to give them some recognition. We know that most of them are too shy to write about themselves.

"Except for two containers of equipment that were stolen or misplaced prior to shipping from the Bay Area, my first class Puesto del Sol Resort & Marina project for five miles north of the commercial port of Corinto, Nicaragua, is going great," reports Roberto Membreno of the San Diego based Peterson 46 Puesto del Sol. "We've got over 250 locals working on the project for us, and thanks to international aid, are building a school for their children. We already have navigation aids in place, hazards marked, and the clubhouse halfway done - and are continuing at full speed. We don't have fuel yet, but that's coming soon, so all southbound cruisers should stop by and check us out. A lot of Americans may not know it, but the Nicaraguan government and people are now pro-capitalist. They want investment and development, as they see it creating jobs and educational opportunities for their children. As for myself, I was retired - but am now having the time of my life working with all the people on this project."

"In December of last year you ran an item about Les MacNeill and Marcia Stromsmoe of Rio Nimpkish, who were making their way from the South Pacific back to their homeport of Victoria, B.C.," writes James MacNeill. "If you recall, they were visciously beaten while ashore at Papua New Guinea. To update the story, they were medically evacuated to Australia, and later Canada. Marcia estimates that she's at 90% of her previous abilities. Les is physically fine, but has a serious brain injury that caused him to lose his short term memory and ability to do abstract thinking. Fortunately, he can remember everything up to the attack. He also retains his sense of humor and spirit, saying he won't let that "#!&% at #!" ruin his life. Earlier in the year, Marcia returned to Rabual with three friends to sail Rio Nimpkish back to Canada. To compound the previous troubles, she discovered that the boat had been broken into twice while in the care of the local yacht club! A lot of stuff was lost, the most serious besides their photos being their address book. Given all that has happened, the couple has begun to wonder if they are atoning for something bad they did in a previous life. In any event, they'd like to let cruising friends they'd met in and across the Pacific know they can be contacted ; at 583 Toronto Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 1P1; or at (250) 381-2176. They would love to hear from you. After Marcia and the two friends sailed Rio Nimkish back to Victoria, the boat was sold, which was quite sad. As is the case with many cruisers, the couple hadn't been insured for their losses."

Frankly, we at Latitude don't buy the previous lives and atonement business. The unpleasant truth some of us would prefer not to face is that there are some genuinely bad and violent people in this world. By the way, if Les and Marcia ever happen to find themselves in San Francisco between May and early October, when Profligate is likely to be in town, we'd enjoy taking them for a sail on the Bay.

"Six months ago we arrived at Bahia del Sol, which is in Bahia Jaletepec, El Salvador," report Murray and Colette on Tarazed - type of boat and hailing port not specified. "We intended to stay for a week, but it's been six months. Getting into Bahia del Sol can be interesting, as you must wait for high water and a guide to take you over the bar. If the tide is low when you arrive, no problem, you just have to anchor in 30 feet until it comes up. During a period of big surf earlier this year, several boats had to wait offshore for three days. Again, no problem, as the El Salvadoran Navy supplied guards for each boat and the hotel provided free rooms for the sailors! All the necessary officials are permanently stationed here at Bahia del Sol during the busy season, so paperwork is handled in an expedient manner - while you enjoy a cerveza in the hotel restaurant! Fees are $10/person for 90 days, with no charge for the boat. Once here, you can anchor in the estuary in front of the hotel or pay $5/night for a buoy. We left Tarazed at anchor for two months while we travelled back to the States, and the Salvadoran Navy kept a watch. Others have done the same with no problem. Bahia del Sol is below the hurricane belt and not as wet as Costa Rica during the rainy season.

"Bahia del Sol has and does everything to meet the needs of cruisers, including having two swimming pools, a laundry, internet access, a fuel dock, a 30% discount on food and drinks, Wednesday 'cruiser nights', and much more. They are, however, going to start charging a minimum of $5/day in cruiser services - meaning beverages and food - to discourage freeloaders. A couple of delicious but inexpensive meals a week would easily cover the minimum. Even though we're going to continue south this year, we've bought property on one of the islands. The estuary is beautiful, and dinghy trips through the mangroves to the nearby pueblos are interesting, and the wonderful locals are eager to greet and help cruisers. Trips into the capital of San Salvador are 90 minutes by chicken bus - which all we cruisers have come to love. Inland trips to beautiful Guatemala and Honduras are both inexpensive and wonderful."

Garth Wilcox and Wendy Hinman of the Seattle-based Wylie 30 Velella have returned to New Zealand after a summer of cruising in Fiji, Vanuatu, and other South Pacific islands. We'll have a big Changes from them next month.

"We bought our boat in New York in 1994 and have been cruising slowly around the world ever since," report Don and Katie Radcliffe of the Santa Cruz-based Beneteau First 456 Klondike, which is currently in Thailand. "Our course has taken us down through the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, and across the South Pacific to Australia. After spending four years on the east coast of Australia and among the neighboring island groups, we left the Pacific in 2001 and came up through Indonesia to Southeast Asia. Once we finish our major refit in Phuket, our destination is uncertain, as we've found that the best cruising plans are no plans at all.

"But while the rest of you were greeting winter on the Bay in late November and early December," the Radcliffe's continue, "we joined 77 competitors from all over the world for the King's Cup in Thailand, the premiere regatta in Asia. All kinds of boats participated, some of which had been shipped from as far away as England. The Racing Class had 13 boats, ranging from a Mumm 30 to the Tom Wylie-designed and Schooner Creek built 77-ft Jelik. In the Premier Cruising Class, the stripped-out X-482 Hocux Pocux won a tiebreaker with Australian Maid, a race boat pretending to be a cruiser. The best-looking boat in the class was the grand old 72-ft Stormvogel of TransPac and Dead Calm movie fame. A pair of actress Nichole Kidman's knickers are said to be framed in the salon. There were three IRC cruiser-racer classes, and Douglas Ludden's Kylie from the St. Francis YC was in one of them. The IRC 3 Class had 19 boats, about half of them Sunsail charter boats. Although they had chutes, they were slow in the light stuff because of fixed props. Nonetheless, each day Sunsail gave out nice half-model trophies to the top placing charter boat. In an effort to attract more of the transient cruising boats, the Ocean Rover class did not require a rating certificate and featured a reduced entry fee. Since we couldn't find anyone else to race with, we entered Klondike at the last minute - and cleaned up on the other two cruising boats."

"In addition to the racing," the Radcliffe's report, "the regatta included six all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink parties at local resorts. The first two at Phi Phi had a hot Thai reggae band, traditional dancing, and the Thai food was better than at Phuket. Unfortunately, early December is a bit too soon for the northeasterly monsoon winds that mark the prime sailing season in Thailand, so the first three days of racing were very light. Even though the regatta was moved to Phi Phi Island - where all the really beautiful Swedish girls spend their winters - there still wasn't much wind until the last two races. As such, party fatigue set in early. One of the highlights of the event was a candlelight ceremony for the King's Birthday on December 5. All in all, it was like an upscale MEXORC - with all the other Thailand attractions included."

"Chaguaramas Bay in Trinidad was invaded by an oil slick yesterday," reports John Anderton of the Alameda-based Sanderling. "The slick has moved into the inner harbor, the anchorages, and the many small marinas. There are two possible sources of the oil - a ship in the Caribbean, or one of the many oil platforms in the Gulf of Paria. Some suspect the latter, because the oil workers in nearby Venezuela are on strike. The only sure thing is that it's a mess. I'm anchored in a small cove to the east of Chaguaramas next to the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association. So far the slick hasn't made it around the corner and into this little bay, but I'm not confident my boat will be spared."

Steve and Gabby McCrosky, of the Big Bear-based Cheoy Lee 35 Karibu, report that Neil and Debra McQueen, of the Santa Cruz-based Vanguard 33 Tranquilo, who are friends from the 2000 Ha-Ha, have travelled through the Panama Canal and up to Boca del Toros on the Caribbean side. "Awesome!" is the word the couple used to describe it. Neil, a dedicated surfer, reports there are tons of waves and the diving is terrific. As for the McCroskys, who are now snowboarding two hours each morning near their new home, come March they'll be heading back to their boat in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. "Tell everyone that it's possible to leave their boat on the hard at Puntarenas for an extended time, but it's not without some headaches, as we've had to deal with a lot of under-the-table paperwork." Once they get back to Karibu, they'll spend six weeks sailing her through the Canal and to the Boca del Toros.

"We had a great two-week, 700-mile trip from La Paz to Zihua in November with Adam, Sueann, Jennifer, and Frank as crew," reports Don Engle of the Lafayette-based Hunter 450 Circe II. "Other than too little wind, having to dodge tropical storms, and getting water in the fuel lines, all went well. I had previously planned to take Circe II through the Canal in April, keep her south of the hurricane belt during the summer, and then sail her throughout the Caribbean next winter. These plans have been supplanted by the progress of the 70-ft Kelsall catamaran that Tom and I are having built in New Zealand. She will be ready to start sea trials in October, which means we'll be able to leave New Zealand for Tonga in April of 2004. So instead of sailing Circe II to the Caribbean next winter, I will be getting the new cat ready to cross the Pacific. Circe II will now stay in Zihua until the end of January, then start working north. In May or June, we'll truck her back to the Bay Area from San Carlos."

Speaking of big cats, Sam and Caren Edwards, with youngsters Rachael and Dana aboard the Portola Valley based Marquesas 56 Rhapsody, have spent much of the last season cruising Papua New Guinea around Tufi and Kavieng. They were scheduled to return home for a couple of weeks over the holidays.

Further along this vein, Mark and David Bernhard of the East Bay 'rallied' their new Catana 58 catamaran Aurora across the Atlantic last month as part of the 217-boat Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). It was quite rough in the beginning, but the last week or so was idyllic. We were hoping to have a detailed report for this issue, but maybe next month.

Not another Catana 58! Bob Wilson reports that he joined the delivery crew for the Norfolk, Virginia, to Walker's Cay, Bahamas, delivery trip aboard his son-in-law and daughter's almost new Catana 58 cat Blue Moon. With the wind on the nose, they had to motor most of the time, doing eight knots using just one engine at a time. "Twice we had mild gales with winds to 35-40 knots, which the cat managed well despite the lumpy seas of nine to 12 feet from all directions. Despite the conditions, a glass wine decanter sitting atop a galley cupboard didn't move from where it had been placed back in April! During the worst of the weather, we put in second precautionary reefs at night - something that was done entirely from the cockpit under the hardtop. My only complaint was that the captain and sailing master for the trip, both Norwegian monohull sailors, kept Blue Moon head-to-wind under power during both gales. That may be accepted monohull practice, but we did take occasional bridgedeck slams in the upper middle, with more frequent thumps on the steps inside each hull. The cat seemed to say, "O.K. guys, I can do this, but do I really have to?"

This is the last cat report, we promise. "It's December 17, the sky is clear, the wind is blowing from the ENE at 15 knots, and we're doing 8-10 knots under the big spinnaker while sailing from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands," reports Blair Grinols of the Vallejo-based 46-ft cat Capricorn Cat. "While Jack was out front on the trampoline trying to give himself a haircut a minute ago, he almost got a pressure washing as Capricorn Cat surfed down a wave, sending spray all over. I eventually had to help him with his haircut. Since I don't know how to cut hair, he ended up with a buzz cut. We left Kauai this morning on the roughly 2,000-mile passage to Majuro, and things are going well. Despite all my ocean sailing, I usually get queasy the first day at sea, but not this time. I made some chocolate brownies last night, and mmmm, were they good! There is one big problem - there wasn't enough room in the freezer for ice cream. Man, am I going to go through withdrawals for the next few days. We - me, Jack, and Dave - fished all afternoon and caught a one-pound tuna. We didn't even have to stop the boat to get him aboard. Anyway, fish tacos tomorrow."

The heck with the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society! Grinols, who at age 70 is incredibly energetic and fit, and who for the last seven years has been one of the most active offshore cruisers in the Pacific, has an unusual diet. His staples aren't the recommended fruits and vegetables, but brownies and ice cream. Medically it's all wrong, but it's sure been working for him.

Tom and Kathy Knueppel of the San Francisco-based Island Packet 40 Tai Tam II report they have been cruising from Boca del Toro, Panama, to the San Blas Islands, to Cartagena, Columbia. Although leaving their boat at Boca del Toro during a long visit back to the States was fine, they now think that Cartagena might be an even better place to do it. If nothing else, you can't beat the deals on meals: "In Cartagena it's $10 U.S. for a four-course meal with all the wine you can drink." We'll have a Changes on the San Blas Islands and Cartagena from the Knueppels in the February issue.

"After watching the weather charts for several days while in the Chesapeake Bay, on November 23 I decided it was the right time to set sail for St. John in the U.S. Virgins," reports Marc Hachey of the Auburn-based Peterson 44 Sea Angel. Having singlehanded for so long, it was unusual that Hachey had Stu Wallace along as crew. "Stu hadn't done any bluewater sailing prior to the trip, and was looking for experience. He got a trip he'll not soon forget, as we arrived at Francis Bay, St. John, 11.5 days later. Although we got slammed by squalls a couple of times while south of Bermuda, it was a fantastic trip with some great sailing. The boats that were just one day behind us and therefore further north, however, ended up in the middle of the storms and had 40 to 50 knots winds.

"Thanks for a wonderful Baja Ha-Ha," writes Mike Chambreau, who did the event aboard Nels Torgerson's Morgan Out-Island 41 Bronco. "But perhaps next year you can remind folks not to run their deck level running lights and masthead tricolors at the same time. It's pretty exciting to see five white-over-white and a red-over-red lights at night." Good point. But if we forget, point it out to the Grand Poobah so he can make an announcement during roll call.

"Awhile back you gave me some good information about transiting the Panama Canal," writes Christian Leube of the Islander 28 Summertime. "Now the boat and I are in Genoa, Italy, and I need to sail her to Sicily to start a job. What can you tell me about the winter weather for the sail from Genoa to Sicily?"

Sorry, but our expertise on winter sailing in the Med is limited to urging you to be very careful, as it can be very cold and rough. It should be doable, however, as long as you harbor hop down the west coast of Italy during periods of fair weather.

"From 1999 to 2001, my family as well as my sister and her daughter - a total of four adults and four children - lived aboard my 47-ft Vagabond ketch as we travelled from San Carlos, Mexico, through the Panama Canal, and into the Caribbean, with stops in South America," reports Mrs. Ashley M. Dixon, captain of Echelon. "We're getting ready to return to the Sea of Cortez in the spring."

We're sorry, Ashley, but we didn't publish your Christmas poem because we don't publish any poems - let alone long ones. However, we'd certainly be interested in hearing more about your two-families-on-one-boat sailing adventures.

"I read two articles on octangenarian Harry Heckel's intended trip from Japan to Washington aboard his Tahiti sloop Idle Queen," writes Gregg Johnson. "I then read that after being slowed and becalmed for long periods of time, he was stopped 750 miles south of the Aluetians. He then diverted toward San Francisco, then 'rediverted to Hawaii'. What's the rest of the story?"

Sorry, Gregg, but we don't know the rest of the story. As we mentioned earlier in this month's Cruise Notes, singlehanders don't much care for publicity. But maybe some of our readers know where Harry ended up.

Health problems kept Carl Mischka from doing his second Ha-Ha last November aboard the Newport Beach-based Oyster 48 Ti Amo, but he says things are looking up. "I've been able to visit Avalon to check out some new boat systems, and plan on heading south to Mexico in early January. I hope to see everyone at the Banderas Bay Regatta and elsewhere!

"Adagio, the Morrelli & Melvin 52 catamaran that my wife and I had built in New Zealand, is now at Sanctuary Cove Resort on the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia," reports Steve Darden, formerly of Tiburon. "Happiness is a broadband connection on the boat, which is why it's fortunate that I was able to talk the IT Manager into allowing us to connect our wireless LAN to their corporate network. We have just done an update to our website, covering the cruising we did from last June to November from Tasmania up to the Great Barrier Reef. There are also lots of new photos in the 2002 section called 'Tasmania - Sailing Around Hobart'. In an attempt to convey what some of these beautiful places are like, there are nine new panoramas. By the time Dorothy returns from her trip back to the States, we'll be making for Tasmania again and Southern summer cruising. Our current plan is to sail to New Zealand in April, Tahiti the following April, and Patagona that November."

The Adagio website - www.adagiomarine.com - is excellent.

"We had a light air motorsail through Mexico," reports Keith MacKenzie of the Vancouver-based Crowther 46 catamaran What's Up Doc? "Unfortunately, we hit a large log at night, shearing off one of my carbon fiber rudders. We continued on another 1,000 miles with just the other rudder, and didn't have any problems. On the first 100 miles across the Gulf of Tehuantepec, we had 20 to 25 knots of wind, but then it settled down. We made a fuel stop in Guatemala, and were amazed at the amount of firepower the locals were packing! It was too much for this Canadian, so we left the same day. We had Papagayo winds occasionally up to 35 knots on our way to Costa Rica, and it seemed as though every time it got light and we shook a reef out, it started blowing again. We're now in Puntarenas, where checking in was free - although a local service offered to do it for $150 U.S.! Actually, the best place to check in is at Caldera, as they have the Port Captain and Customs together, and Immigration nearby. The Costa Rica YC here in Puntarenas is excellent, but there's not much water at low tide. Carlos, the manager, speaks perfect English and helps at the drop of a hat. The yacht club has a security guard sweep through the moorings every half hour, 24 hours a day. There's also a nice swimming pool, and hotel rooms for as little as $45/night - if you need air-conditioned sleep. I think prices are lower here than in Mexico. The Ha-Ha was great fun and I hope to be able to do it again soon, but tomorrow we're off for the Panama Canal."

He's a busy man. Jimmy Cornell founded the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), the grandaddy of all cruising rallies, 17 years ago. He sold that enterprise, with some regrets, a few years ago, but manages to keep plenty busy. In addition to running a new cruising website, noonsite.com, he's never stopped sailing. "Earlier this year I sailed from Europe to Ecuador, where I left my boat in a marina. I'll go back to the boat in February, at which time I plan to sail to the Galapagos, French Polynesia, and the rest of the South Pacific on my way to New Zealand by November." In the last 25 years, Cornell has sailed 150,000 ocean miles in a succession of boats.

It's another new year, so please make 2003 your best - and safest - cruising year ever. And don't forget to write!

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