With reports this month from
Catch The Wind on outrageously expensive
care for turista in Cabo; from Cheval
on a family trip across the Pacific; from La
Cruz on the new marina being built in Banderas Bay; from
Brisa on a voyage from Oz to Honolulu;
from Lariekoek on 13 years of cruising
after two Whitbread Around The World Race victories; and perhaps
the most ever number of Cruise Notes.
The Wind - Cal 39
Sam Crabtree & Susie Wilson
Medical Care In Mexico
It might be a good idea to alert Latitude readers that
the only qualifications 'pharmacists' have at the farmacias in
Mexico is that they applied for the job. This was brought home
to me in Cabo after the Baja Ha-Ha when I got a case of turista. I
visited a farmacia looking for advice. The woman behind the counter
brought out three remedies - Imodium, Lomatil, and Tedra. When
I asked her which one was the best, she said Tedra, and recommended
that I take two tablets every four hours.
After taking two Tedra every four to five hours for about 30
hours, I developed a pain in my upper abdomen that was as bad
as the pain when I had acute appendicitis. So I went to a clinic
and was diagnosed as having an impacted colon!
The doctor at the clinic told me that Tedra is a good and effective
medication - but that only a couple of doses should be taken.
He says he prescribes it for patients about to make flights back
to the States. But I got two other pieces of significant information
1) There is no career path to becoming a pharmacist in Mexico.
Even though many medications can be obtained without a prescription
down there, it's best to get a doctor's prescription - unless
you know for sure what the dosage is, the effects will be, and
any possible bad effects if taken with other medications. This
might require being able to read and understand Spanish.
2) The best treatment for turista is to let it run its course,
and remember to drink plenty of fluids - such as water, fruit
juices, and, I was surprised to learn, diluted Gatorade. The
doctor says you want to allow the bowels to remove whatever it
is that's giving you turista.
On the very negative side, I was billed nearly $4,000 U.S. for
IV medications and one night in the emergency room!
By the way, we all enjoyed the Ha-Ha, even Hunter, the kid who,
at the awards bash, announced, "I want to go home."
- sam & susie 12/15/05
Sam and Susie - That $4,000 bill for
your one night in the clinic is the most outrageous of any type
that we've ever heard of in Mexico. We'd have raised a stink
with the clinic, the Tourism Department, the Chamber of Commerce,
the local newspapers, and anybody else who would have listened.
That was wrong, wrong, wrong.
But thank you for the heads-up on the 'pharmacists'. As we understand
it, it's only a little different in France, where the pharmacists,
who admittedly know quite a bit about medicines, commonly prescribe
medicines based on casual conversations with patients. Perhaps
that's why the French consume far more Valium per capita than
anyone in the world.
Turista is a fact of life if you cruise Mexico. We eat and drink
just about everything, and figure we're going to get nailed once
every year or two. We like to believe that we're building up
a resistance, but it might just be wishful thinking. In fact,
not half an hour after the Ha-Ha awards ceremony, we were laid
low by a wicked combination of non-vomiting and non-diarrhea
turista and the flu. We could barely move. Standing in line at
the airport the next day and flying home was physically one of
the hardest things we've had to do in a long time. We know that
lots of folks believe in this medicine or that, but we think
the doctor at the clinic was right - the only real cure is time.
But you do have to make sure you keep hydrated. So you suffer
for a day or two, but then those street tacos start smelling
pretty good once again.
Cheval - Outremer 55 Cat
Chris & Carolyn Bridge Family
Cruising The South Pacific
(Corona Del Mar)
We're back in Corona del Mar until the end of February so that
our children - Tristan, 8, Ethan, 6, and Cheyenne, 4, - can get
in some regular classroom schooling. I, Chris, haven't written
because I don't feel like anyone would be interested in reading
about our family's good times. After all, we're not breaking
any records, we're just messing around on the water and having
a blast doing it. But maybe there are a few useful things we
can pass along to those who will soon be headed to the South
We departed Newport Beach directly for French Polynesia in late
February, which is quite early in the season. I just wanted to
get going, and didn't realize until later how beneficial it was.
By leaving early, we virtually had the Marquesas to ourselves
- except for the local French cruising boats. And when we got
to the quay in Papeete, ours was the only boat! It's true that
French Polynesia has been hit by tropical cyclones at that time
of year, but very rarely. It's usually happened in El Niño
years. The Marquesas, the most northerly of the islands of French
Polynesia, have almost never been affected.
Tahiti and Papeete often get a bit of a bad rap, but we found
that they have some good things going for them: 1) Excellent
provisioning and tax free fuel; 2) Decent boat repairs. API Yachting,
for example, can handle most rigging, mechanical, and sail repairs;
3) Hassle free - and tax free - importation of boat parts. (By
the way, we learned that FedEx even understands SailMail; 4)
Outstanding surf; and 5) Helpful people. While the anchorage
off Marina Taina, a few miles from Papeete, can get pretty full,
it's convenient to everything. The friendly marina staff will
usually find you a place for those days when you need to get
in and get things done. And if you can get out again by sunset,
they often won't charge you.
In my opinion, many people miss the best part of Tahiti, which
is the south coast of Tahiti-Iti. When there - and we were often
the only boat - it seems as though you're a million miles from
the hustle of Papeete. The luxuriant mountains fall into the
sea, subsistence agriculture is still common, and the natural
friendliness of the Polynesians becomes evident once again. Thanks
to reasonably good navigation aids, you can sail inside the reef
safely. While there, you'll also get to see some of the best
lefthander surfing waves in the world. For while anchored just
inside the pass, you can watch, from the comfort of your own
cockpit, the incredible surf at Teahupoo. It's absolutely amazing!
Sure, Tahiti and all of French Polynesia are expensive. But the
only real budget killer we found was dining out. And that, of
course, is optional. In fact, we think that cruising French Polynesia
could be the least expensive way to visit these beautiful islands.
I'll now touch briefly on a variety of subjects:
Family life: Our sons Tristan and Ethan, and our daughter Cheyenne,
adapt well to their life onboard, and have become accustomed
to our family's annual migrations aboard our catamaran. We once
overheard Tristan explaining our voyages by saying, "It's
just what we do."
Some of the children's highlights were meeting the chiefs of
the outer islands of Fiji, exploring the Bay of Islands of the
Lau Group, watching the pros surf Teahupoo, visiting the schools
and children on some of the small islands, trolling the reefs
for fish, surfing, wakeboarding, snorkeling, and hiking. As parents,
Carolyn and I were happy to see them be welcomed by the local
families and children everywhere we went. We are also proud of
their study habits and the genuine pleasure they take in reading,
writing and creating their own entertainment.
Crew: We were again lucky to find another good crewmember - something
that's not always easy to do when sailing with a family that
includes three young children - in Spencer Kuhner. He came well
qualified after a four-year circumnavigation with his own family,
and additional sailing after that.
Ground tackle: We carried two primary anchors, a Delta and a
Fortress, and a smaller secondary anchor. Both types of anchors
were vital to have along for the different situations. Our primary
rode was 350 feet long, made up of 210 feet of chain spliced
to 140 feet of three-strand nylon. Often the anchorages were
50 to 60 feet, which is deep, but we found that the 210 feet
of chain was sufficient 95% of the time. Occasionally, the anchorages
were very deep - such as at Raiatea and Tahaa, where we had to
anchor in 90 feet of water. Here the trick was to let out all
the chain - but only enough nylon to keep clear of the bottom
The nylon must never be allowed to touch the bottom or it can
be subject to heavy chafe. This system worked well for us, and
allowed us to keep some weight off the boat by not having all-chain
rode. Naturally we carried extra rodes and various lengths of
Weather: South Pacific weather, to the surprise of some, is not
all balmy and benign trades. In fact, one must really keep an
eye open for approaching frontal systems - particularly when
cruising places like the Tuamotus, where the atoll anchorages
provide little or no protection if the wind shifts. Another regular
feature of South Pacific weather is the strengthening of the
southeast trades when a large high pressure system passes to
the south of the tropics. This can lead to 25 to 35-knot winds
in what normally are calm anchorages. These increased winds are
the famous maraumus of French Polynesia, but can be felt all
the way to Fiji.
Communications: We are thankful to SailMail for providing us
access to almost all the weather information we got - gribfiles,
saildocs, McDavitt's weather-grams and fleet codes. We got our
weatherfaxes through SailMail's Getfax program and received our
weather router's correspondence via SailMail's email. We do carry
an Iridium satphone, which almost always connected and never
dropped a call. But I never had reason to use it for email.
Chart Plotters and Navigation: In the waters of French Polynesia,
I believe that a good chart plotter is no longer a luxury, but
a high priority piece of safety equipment. I used the MaxSea
software on a laptop interfaced with the GPS. The new MM2 charts
for French Polynesia proved to be outstanding. I never found
myself in an emergency situation, but if I had, I would have
been confident enough in the charts and chart plotter to enter
or leave a pass at night. I have no knowledge of the accuracy
of any of the other navigation software systems, and we still
carried paper charts. The latter didn't get much use in French
Polynesia, but while on passages I still plotted my position
It must be emphasized that navigation west of French Polynesia
is a whole different story, and Fiji in particular can be dangerous.
For one thing, there are virtually no aids to navigation, so
you really have to be on your toes. We spent more than two months
in Fiji and sailed nearly 1,000 miles, but only made one overnight
passage. And for the sake of our three relatively young children,
I generally like to sail at night. The Admiralty Charts were
all right, and, when available, the Fijian charts are good. However,
all the Fijian charts have an offset, so unless - and sometimes
even if - this is programmed into your GPS, the reefs are never
exactly where they should be! This together with the lack of
navigation aids, and the fact that sometimes you have to sail
with the sun at the wrong angle, means you always have to be
very aware of what's going on and use all the information that's
available. But even in Fiji, the chart plotter was very useful
- in a relative way.
A GPS feature that not everybody seems to be aware of, and which
could save your boat in an emergency, is Track Mode. This can
be used with or without a chart plotter, and is simply a feature
whereby the GPS remembers your track in through the reefs or
pass that you hopefully made in ideal daylight conditions. If
you ever have to depart at night or in other poor conditions
because of an emegency, the Track Mode is your exit strategy.
These tracks can usually be backed up onto a computer if necessary.
I always used this feature when exiting a pass at dawn or to
confirm my position in unfavorable light conditions.
A few words about the passages:
California to the Marquesas took exactly 17 days, with Spencer
and me doublehanding. It was one of my most fun passages ever
because it was as much north-south as it was east-west. As such,
the weather conditions varied constantly, as we had to deal with
winter fronts off the California and Baja coasts, had to skirt
the North Pacific High, sailed in the northeast trades, and sailed
through the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone and in the southeast
trades. The currents and countercurrents were all textbook stuff
that fell into place and made it all the more interesting.
Since the California to the Marquesas run is mostly downhill,
we flew a spinnaker a good deal of the time. I strongly recommend
buying one or two cheap used spinnakers that can be abused and/or
left up in too much wind. We generally got much more use out
of them than our beautiful new expensive spinnaker that we didn't
want to wreck. In fact, I'm heading over to Minney's Marine Surplus
in Costa Mesa right now to buy another one or two used spinnakers.
The French Polynesia to Niue-Tonga-Fiji leg is a notoriously
uncomfortable one due to the beam seas coming up from the south,
and because of the likelihood of being passed over by a depression
in the South Pacific Convergence Zone. We didn't escape, and
were hit by a front with 35 to 45-knot winds.
The always potentially dangerous Fiji-New Zealand passage was
another highlight of the trip. We left Fiji the first week of
September, which is very early in the season, and had a very
fast passage of 5.5 days to the Hauraki Gulf just off Auckland.
Thanks to the routing of Bob McDavitt, we had a best day's run
of 240 miles. Our worst was still a credible 194 miles.
I should caution that crossing to New Zealand so early in the
season can subject a boat to rapidly changing and severe weather
conditions. For example, a few days after we arrived there were
60+ knots of wind in Auckland Harbour, and three lows passed
in quick succession. We were also fortunate to be able to maneuver
around a large approaching low two days out of Fiji. As a result,
we had wind aft of the beam for the entire passage. Although
the seas were moderate, it was uncomfortable, as a huge low off
to the southeast kept pumping beam seas at us, seas that regularly
broke into the cockpit. Nobody needed to tell us that we'd left
- chris 12/05/05
La Cruz Huancaxtle
La Cruz, Banderas Bay, Mexico
The following is the interesting take, by the Guadalajara Reporter,
on the new marina being built in La Cruz, which is 10 miles NNW
of Puerto Vallarta proper, seven miles NNW from Marina Paradise,
and 10 miles east of Punta Mita.
"Despite the objections of some residents, Nayarit Governor
Ney Gonzalez this week formally inaugurated work on a 50-million-dollar
private development in Cruz de Huanacaxtle. Plans for the seafront
development include a two-kilometer malecon (boardwalk), a marina
with 400 berths, a commercial mall, condominiums and a hotel.
Developers promise to respect environmental concerns and do their
best not to obstruct views of the bay and access to the seafront.
They say the project will be fashioned on the traditional malecon
concept as in Puerto Vallarta, rather than Nuevo Vallarta.
According to developers, local fishermen have signed an agreement
to be relocated away from the beachfront where traditionally
they have berthed their fishing boats. The project is financed
in total by the private sector, but Gonzalez is promising to
give his full support. Foreign capital accounts for around 45%
of the investment. Construction is expected to take three years.
Developers say the marina will provide employment for about 800
We stopped by the marina site early in December and were surprised
at how cleaned up the area had already become. Previously, the
shore had been littered with trash, and there were several derelict
boats that had been beached there years before. It looks much
improved already. While there are always arguments against development,
we think this marina can be of great benefit to mariners - there
are no open berths south of Mazatlan and north of Barra de Navidad,
let alone in Banderas Bay - and to the local economy. With all
the whales nearby, this might become a major center for eco-tourism.
The area just outside the current breakwater has long been one
of the most popular cruiser anchorages in Banderas Bay - and
even all of Mexico. Tucked into the northeast corner of the bay,
it generally has the lightest wind and smoothest water, great
access to the mellow little town, and good bus service to Puerto
The big question in the minds of many cruisers - such as Sanders
Lamont of the Satellite Beach, Florida-based Good News -
is what effect the completion of the marina might have on anchoring
there. It's a good question, because when we were there in early
December, there were 33 boats anchored right outside of what
would be the entrance, and usually there are even more during
the high season. We're not sure anybody can answer that question
at this time, but as many boats have traditionally anchored even
much further out, and the water is relatively shallow, we don't
see any reason why the practice couldn't continue. If for some
reason it wasn't, there would still be the very large and shallow
water anchorage at Punta Mita, which is about 20 minutes further
from downtown Puerto Vallarta by bus. In fact, on most days it
would be comfortable - although not necessarily convenient -
to anchor just about anywhere along the north shore of Banderas
From the looks of things, we think it's going to be a win-win
situation for everyone. But only time will tell for sure.
Brisa - 50-ft Custom Sloop
Ed & Sandy Martinez
Oz To Tierra del Fuego Via Ha-Ha
After about 5,500 miles of voyaging northwest from Brisbane,
Australia, over the last five months, we are now in Honolulu.
It was mostly an upwind adventure, as we were at 38° to the
wind most of the way, and only saw 50° apparent on one leg.
It was a fairly hard trip on what should have been the last 950
miles from Palmyra to Hawaii, as we had to tack east because
we were getting set west, which added another 200 hard miles.
In the last three days, we did 450 miles to windward in 25-30
knots without our water ballast tanks full. We banged around,
but got accustomed to it.
By the time we got to Honolulu, it was too late in the year for
coming back to San Francisco. So we're keeping the boat in Hawaii
until next June, when we'll sail to San Francisco. Next fall
we'll sail to Mexico as part of the Baja Ha-Ha.
For those who don't remember, we lived in Taiwan for a year while
we supervised the construction of our Tayana 48, then cruised
her for eight years. Then two years ago, we picked up Brisa,
which we had custom built in New Zealand. We sailed her to Tonga,
Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and then to Australia for the last
cyclone season. Since we always planned to go to Tierra del Fuego,
but did not want to sail south of 40°S directly to Chile,
we decided to come back to San Francisco, see Mexico, and then
continue south to Tierra del Fuego. We call it the 'hold the
chips, bring on the tacos' route.
Our route from Brisbane to Honolulu took us via the Solomon Islands
and the atolls of Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Palmyra. Here are some
of the details.
In early May, we left Brisbane and made three 50-mile sails up
the east coast to Bundaberg to make sure everything on the boat
was working. We then cleared out of Australia, left the Barrier
Reef for the open ocean, and made the approximately 1,000-mile
trip to the Solomon Islands. We had good reaching conditions
in the beginning and made 190 miles on each of the first two
days. Then we had no wind and had to motor for three days.
We'd visited Gizo coming from Hong Kong in 1990, and can report
that the place hasn't changed much. It's still a backwater western
capital with a dusty, unpaved main street. But you can provision
there, get ice cream, and do some great wreck and live coral
diving. We stayed in the lagoon about 10 days, then made our
way east via the Diamond Narrows toward the Morova Lagoon. Along
the way we met many hardwood carvers who, because of civil unrest
the prior two years, hadn't had any customers. So they were anxious
to sell. We had carvers set out 40-piece displays in our cockpit.
For several items, we traded batteries, fish hooks, and children's
clothes in addition to money. It was fun, as we never knew how
the deal would end.
Passing through the famous Marova Lagoon, we visited the carver
John Wayne at Talina village. The carvings made there are still
excellent, but unfortunately the bay is not the idyllic spot
it was 15 years ago. There is now a major logging operation carving
up the hills, and the mud runoff is polluting the lagoon.
We then sailed directly to the capital of Honaira, where we stayed
for a few days to see the historic Guadalcanal battle area from
World War II. We also visited Tavanipupu, another favorite spot
from our first trip. It is still one of the most beautiful places
we've seen, despite the fact that many more villagers now live
around the anchorage.
Day-hopping, we continued down the San Cristobel Islands, ending
at the tiny island of Santa Ana before jumping off to the Santa
Cruz Islands and Graciosa Bay. Santa Ana is a lovely spot. The
people were welcoming but did not pester us with constant canoe
visits. The children were also friendly, but did not make us
the center of attention.
Graciosa Bay was our last stop in the Solomons. Luckily we'd
been told in Honiara that there's no regular customs and immigration
there, so we checked out at Honiara and got permission to stop
on our way out of the country. All we had to do was report to
the police at Graciosa Bay, and there was no problem. The anchorage
on the east side of the bay by the mission school provided excellent
protection during the two weeks we waited for the right weather
At most of the anchorages in the Solomons, we were greeted by
friendly villagers who had fruit, vegetables, fish, and lobsters
they wanted to trade or sell. We rarely needed to worry about
finding fresh food at an anchorage, and often had to turn sellers
away. The people were also very happy to see visitors again,
and anxious to assure us that it was safe to visit the Solomons
Our next leg, 800 miles to Funifuti, Tuvalu, was our most demanding
leg of the trip. First we had to sail southeast from Graciosa
Bay to avoid shoals, then we had many ITCZ thunderstorms of up
to 30 knots. In addition, we were hard on the wind and were losing
10° to leeway due to the north setting current. It finally
worked out, however, as the wind died the last day and allowed
us to motor directly to the northern pass.
We very much liked Funifuti, as we were again among the friendly
Polynesians, whose ancestors had come from Samoa 400 years before.
They played island music on the buses all the time and were easy
to get along with. Funifuti is a six-mile long island that's
narrow - in some places just 100 yards - but has a population
of 6,000. We were able to get fuel and water there, fix our genset's
injectors and, since the supply ship had just come in, even buy
Australian food. There was even ice cream for a couple of days
before everyone bought it up! We stayed at Funifuti for two weeks,
resting, fixing the boat, and enjoying the locals.
It was 650 miles to Kanton, Kirbati, the next step on our way
to Hawaii. We had a good trip except for one blustery day when
we had to tack away from our desired destination because the
wind was right on the nose. Kanton is a very large atoll with
just 40 inhabitants. Eight people have government jobs, which
provides the income for the island. After World War II, Kanton
was a stop for the Pan Am flying boats which had started across
the Pacific from Treasure Island on San Francisco Bay. The last
major development here was a U.S. satellite tracking station
in the '60s. Now there is nothing but broken-down buildings and
junk everywhere. The people use scavenged wood to build their
cooking shacks and shade covers.
Everyone on Kanton was very kind, and gave us lobsters and lots
of fish. I went fishing with two fellows one day and caught three
fish in half an hour. When we signed their guest book, we saw
that another cruiser had commented that Kanton had the best fishing
he'd ever seen. The locals had a village feast on our behalf.
They gave us shell necklaces while the children sang and danced
to traditional island music.
Our last stop was at Palmyra Atoll, which is now partly owned
by the Nature Conservancy. They have a staff of seven, along
with the visiting photographers and biologists who are studying
the coral, turtles, and fish. They were generous with us, and
we could swim near the reef, have good walks, and spend time
in their 'yacht club' watching current movies. Cruisers are required
to get permission to stop, which can be gotten by
All in all, we had a very good trip. However, our welcome by
customs in Honolulu wasn't so friendly, as they surprised us
with a demand for import duty on our foreign-built boat. It could
have been worse, but at least we got it taken care of. It also
helped that we hadn't paid $50,000 - like some cruisers - to
have our boat shipped from Australia to the States.
We did get a berth in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor for a month, and
saw great surfing in our 'front yard'. The 'back yard' featured
Manhattan-like tall buildings. The slip fees at the Ala Wai were
low, but there was poor protection at the transient dock and,
as transients, we could only pay for two weeks at a time. We
were told we might have to leave at any time if they needed room
for another permanent tenant whose berth got condemned! Therefore
we moved to Ko Olina Resort Marina on the southwest tip of Oahu.
It's a safer and quieter place to leave our boat while we're
- ed & sandy 11/15/05
Lariekoek - Custom 39
Cruising With The Flow
The way Aedgard Koekbakker sees it, the high point of his life
was probably 24 years ago. It was 1982, and he was one of the
crew aboard Cornelius van Reitschoten's Frers-designed maxi sloop
Flyer II when she won the third Whitbread Around-the-World
Race. The event was then the zenith of offshore sailing, and
it was the second victory in a row for Reitschoten with Koekbakker
aboard. The second win was different, however, because Reitschoten
and Kiwi Peter Blake had made it a much more competitive event.
There were an astonishing 28 entries from 15 countries in the
'82 race, while this year's Volvo Race, the latest incarnation
of the event, has but seven entries. Almost all of the '82 Whitbread
entries were genuinely amateur efforts. For example, many of
the boats had professional chefs cooking sumptuous meals, carried
countless cases of beer - and, most shocking, often took their
spinnakers down at night. Further, many of the crew were described
as "useless" by those with more than a little sailing
But Reitschoten was determined to not just win the race, but
to win all four legs. So he and the brash young Blake, who was
going to do everything in his power to beat the Dutchman, put
together two of the first almost professional offshore racing
programs. And once they got on the water, they competed ferociously.
For instance, when Reitschoten suffered a heart attack in the
middle of the Southern Ocean, he not only didn't seek treatment,
he forbid his crew from letting anyone know. He feared that if
Blake got the news, he would be inspired to push his crew even
harder. "The first time Blake's boat should learn of my
heart attack is when they sail past my body bag," said Reitschoten,
who apparently had a bit of a competitive streak. By the end
of the leg, the Dutch industrialist had recovered enough to resume
taking his tricks at the helm.
When Reitschoten and the Flyer crew triumphantly returned
to Amsterdam, there was pandemonium. "For a small country
like the Netherlands, our victory was as good as if we'd won
the world soccer championship," says Koekbakker. "There
were parties and girls for days and days."
But all good things must end, and soon it became decision time
for the members of the Flyer crew. Many of them would
go on to become notable figures in the world of sailing as top-flight
racers, captains of megayachts, or stalwarts of sailing businesses.
Perhaps the best known is Grant Dalton, who went on to set around-the-world
racing records with maxi catamarans and monohulls, and who is
now leading the Kiwi Emirates New Zealand effort to win the America's
The Whitbreads had the opposite effect on Koekbakker's ambition.
"Those races ruined me for a normal life with a career.
They made me realize that I didn't want to work forever just
to get a full pension upon retirement, and then try to start
cruising at age 65. I'm 62 now, and if I had to start cruising
three years from now, I'm not sure I'd be able to do it."
So, having already sailed around the world four times, twice
racing and twice on deliveries, Koekbakker decided to sell his
house, build his own boat, and cruise the world on his own boat
and on his own terms. He's been fulfilling that wish for the
last 13 years.
Koekbakker - the name means 'cake baker' in Dutch - was born
in Amsterdam and learned to sail in a nearby area he calls "the
San Francisco Bay of Holland". The Netherlands was also
home of the Frans Maas yard, which was building steel boats drawn
by the world's top designers. Koekbakker did a lot of drawings
for the boats they were building, and once they were launched,
did a lot of sailing on them. After a few years, he migrated
to Green Marine - started by a fellow from Sonoma - in England,
which is still one of the top yards in the world. It meant that
when it came time to build his own boat, he had the proper background.
A friend drew him a 36-ft ultralight with a three-ft sugar scoop.
"I was very much influenced by Bill Lee's concept of light
and fast boats, and particularly the Santa Cruz 50. Light boats
give you more boat and fun for the money, plus you can sail when
others have to motor." But, unlike Lee's designs, Koekbakker's
9,000-lb boat got a lift keel and a fractional rig. He built
the boat at Green Marine over a period of several years. For
a guy who professes to love wood, there is precious little to
be found on his boat. "Just two bits is all - one on the
handle for the oven, and a little in the companionway."
"No," was his answer when we asked if he recommended
that other people build their own boats. It should be noted,
however, that he admits to "perhaps being a little lazy."
He launched his boat in '90, christening her Lariekoek,
which is both a play on his name but also means 'gobblygook',
'nonsense', and even 'bullshit' in Old Dutch. A year later, at
age 42, he, with his girlfriend, cruised Ireland and Scotland,
and the following year did the Baltic countries. His young girlfriend,
having already sailed around the world, was a good sailor, but
wanted children. Koekbakker was all right with the idea, but
warned, "I'm not going to stop cruising so they can go to
school." That pretty much ended that relationship.
Koekbakker left England in '93 to cruise the Med with friends,
and that winter sailed to the Caribbean. "Except for the
occasional woman", he's been cruising singlehanded ever
From '94 to '99, he leisurely sailed around the Caribbean, often
visiting Cuba. "I was only allowed to stay for two months
at a time, so I constantly had to leave for places like Florida,
the Cayman Islands, Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala before returning.
During those five years he noticed a lot of change in Cuba. "There
were a lot more cars, the economy seemed to get a little better,
and the food improved significantly." But other things stayed
the same. "The workers only earned $10 a month, and it was
easy for a European man to meet and date Cuban girls."
Koekbakker maintains that Cuban girls are unlike girls in other
countries. "They're different because they just love to
party, party, party - and often with foreigners. It's not like
they are doing it for the money, it's just that when they are
that age they just love to dance and party. Although it's true
that if a European man invites a Cuban girl to go to Europe,
she'll go if the government will let her - and never return.
Similarly, Cuban girls look to marry European men in order to
When Koekbakker talks about "Cuban girls", he's referring
to ones as young as their middle teens. In fact, at age 56, he
married a girl who hadn't yet turned 16. "We were married
for 17 days," he says with a chuckle. "The thing is
that it's traditional for Cuban girls to have a party celebrating
their 15th birthday, but this girl didn't get to have one because
her family didn't have any money. So by our getting married just
before her 16th birthday, she got to have her party."
[Just so everyone understands Latitude's position on this
issue, if any 56-year-old man had tried to romance or touch our
daughter when she was 15 years old, we'd have cut off his dick
and then cut off his head.]
Koekbakker insists there is nothing unusual about what he did.
"The girl's siblings and parents didn't think anything of
it, nor did the Cuban boys and men. It's just the way Cuban girls
are." This is a position that's supported by Christopher
Baker, author of Mi Moto Fidel, who also had a number
of relationships with young Cuban women.
"When you sail, you stay young," laughs Koekbakker,
"and when you sail around Cuba, you stay even younger."
He didn't think the Cuban girls and women fared as well. "They
become old quickly," he said.
By '00, Koekbakker had had enough of the Caribbean and the tropics,
so he sailed up the East Coast of the United States, and then
up the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Great Lakes. He's spent the
last four winters in Canada at places such as New Brunswick,
Toronto, and Vancouver. With ice up to four feet thick around
his boat in Toronto, it wasn't anything like his previous winters
in tropical Cuba.
His last winter in Vancouver was mild compared to the others
in Canada, but last fall he entered the United States, determined
to work his way back toward the tropics. "I cleared in at
Port Angeles, Washington. It took 24 hours for officials to check
everything out, but it wasn't that hard. The U.S. has a reciprocal
agreement with the Netherlands, so the annual cruising license
only cost $19. The irony is that while my boat can officially
stay in the country for one year, I can only stay for six months
before I have to leave. Then I have to hope I'll be allowed back
in to get my boat!"
"Things are also a little different than when I came up
the East Coast pre-9/11, and when I was on the Great Lakes. Now
I'm supposed to check in, usually by phone, every time I get
to a new port. It makes me feel as though I'm on probation. This
rule has always been around, but it was rarely enforced and often
not even known. When I tried to check in at Chicago, for example,
I got yelled at because they didn't know such a requirement existed."
We visited with Koekbakker at the San Francisco YC shortly after
he arrived from Vancouver. "I like what I've seen of the
United States so far, because it's like Canada and not overpopulated."
It just goes to show you what a different view you have of the
country when you see it from a boat rather than a car.
"Having been to many of the most famous ports in the world,"
he continued, "I have to say that San Francisco is one of
the very best. Only Sydney has comparable sailing. The people
have been very friendly to me, and the yacht clubs such as the
St. Francis, San Francisco, and Golden Gate have been very accommodating."
Having been out cruising for 13 years now, Koekbakker says it
was pretty inexpensive the first five years, but inflation has
since reduced his spending power. "Food, boat and medical
insurance, trips back to Holland, and new sails and gear every
now and then, I spend about $25,000 a year. I don't regret doing
what I did, but I am slowly running out of money. I may have
to marry a rich woman," he said with a smile.
Cruising is not only a relatively inexpensive way to live, but
it's also interesting. "How can you be bored when there
are so many new places to visit and there is so much to do? In
addition to all the stuff to do on the boat, I ride all over
on my bicycle, take walks, read lots of books, and surf on people's
internet connections. But the most important thing is meeting
people, which is easy to do."
Koekbakker viewed this July's West Marine Pacific Cup to Hawaii
as a last great opportunity to see his boat shine. "She's
hit bursts up to 20 knots and can average 10 when it's blowing
hard." But the expense of an SSB, flares and other required
equipment has dampened his enthusiasm. So he may go to Mexico,
Hawaii, Japan - he's just not sure. He knows that someday he'll
make it to New Zealand.
You can imagine the number and variety of boats Koekbakker has
seen over the years. "The most unusual was a 50-ft Dutch-built
ferro-cement boat built in the shape of a whale." Somehow
she had managed to make it all the way to the Caribbean.
What wisdom has the former top-flight racer turned cruiser acquired
after all these years on the water? "Don't go too late in
life, don't go too fast, and don't think you have to go all the
way around. There are a lot of people enjoying very slow cruising,
many of them with kids."
The Winship family of the Alameda-based Crowther 33 catamaran
Chewbacca reports that a terrific new marina on the Caribbean
side of the Panama Canal is nearing completion. According to
the Winships and the marina's website, Shelter Bay Marina, when
completed, promises to be a world-class facility, offering every
conceivable amenity to cruisers awaiting their turn to transit
the canal - or just wanting to keep their boat in secure storage.
Nestled at the edge of a 14,000-acre rainforest, Shelter Bay
is also tucked behind the main ship channel breakwater, affording
unparalleled scenery and excellent protection from swell and
chop. Ultimately, the marina will be able to accommodate 160
boats up to 220 feet in length and up to a 25-foot draft. While
only a handful of slips are in service now, by January the available
facilities and services will include showers, laundry, pool,
gym, and chandlery. A restaurant/bar will be housed in the nearly
finished clubhouse. All slips will eventually have water, power,
high-speed internet, phones, TV, and dockside pumpout. There
is even going to be a concierge service. Future plans are even
more impressive, calling for a six-acre dry storage area to accommodate
upwards of 200 boats to be hauled out with a 65-ton hydraulic
trailer. A Travel-Lift will be able to haul cats with up to 33-foot
beam. Located on the opposite shore of Cristobal, the marina
plans to make arrangements for transportation to Cristobal/Colon
as well as to Panama City. This new marina will have a major
beneficial effect on cruising in Panama. For details, visit www.shelterbaymarina.com.
With wireless high speed internet connections available at more
marinas all the time, working from one's boat in distant countries
is becoming more common. For example, when Bill and Karen Vaccaro
of the Chico-based Moody 44 Miela did the Ha-Ha in '04,
Bill, who had sold his seed company after 25 years, got to stay
with the boat in Mexico. Poor Karen had to return to Chico, where
she does the financials for a start-up. Since the company has
ignored the notice she gave a year ago, Karen has been trying
to work 9-5 aboard Miela in Paradise Marina. But she finds
she still has to fly home from time to time.
Most of the boats in Paradise Marina get their wireless internet
service from the Vallarta YC, which charges $50/month. But the
Vaccaros find the yacht club's service too slow at Dock A for
their needs, plus it's not encrypted. Their solution has been
internet access from Rob Ladner, who swallowed Sweet Thing's
anchor a few years ago, bought a condo across the channel from
Paradise Marina, and beams a wireless signal down to the marina.
"We pay just $30/month, and we're getting about 819 mips,
which at about half the speed of T1 is pretty darn fast,"
says Bill. "In fact, thanks to my big antenna, I was able
to watch Bill O'Reilly on Fox News.com on my Mac by wireless."
Rick Carpenter of Rick's Bar, cruiser central in Zihua, reported
there were 50 boats in the bay as of December 15th, and 27 more
expected in time for the Cruiser Christmas Party. He says return
visitors should prepare themselves for lots of changes. "We
have lots of new housing and restaurants, and have seen many
improvements to the infrastructure - such as new sewers and streets.
Most people view the changes as an inevitable mixture of good
Carpenter has set up the antennas and repeaters to beam high
speed internet out into the bay, but so far has only had mixed
success. "If I had a geek to help me for about three hours,
I think I'd be able to get it to work consistently. We're also
going to set up a remote camera near La Ropa Beach so folks can
monitor their boats!" In other cruiser services, Rick reports
that Nathaniel and his family are back at the foot of the muelle
to provide dinghy valet service. They work for tips during the
day, and Rick's Bar pays them to work 6 p.m. to midnight.
The new port captain in Zihua is said to be a mellow guy - but
he's nonetheless requiring that everyone stop by his conveniently
located office to inform him of their arrival. It's quick, easy,
free - and there's none of the old business of having to also
go to Immigration and then wait in line at the bank for two days.
Cruisers also have to let the port captain know they are leaving,
at which time they are assessed a onetime fee of about $2.60
for . . . well, Carpenter isn't really sure.
One reason the Zihua port captain is making all the cruisers
check in is so he can confirm they have Mexican liability insurance.
You may remember that a cruiser from Long Beach abandoned his
Mariner 35 ketch Freedom on the hook in Zihua a few years
ago, and she eventually ended up sunk on the beach in front of
the Navy base. It cost the port captain a small fortune to have
it removed, and he wants to see proof of insurance so he doesn't
get stuck with similar bills in the future. The port captain
also feels that requiring boats to check in allows him to keep
track of undesirable people. For example, he was able to arrest
a fugitive from the United States trying to get by on a fake
passport. In fact, he was nabbed in Rick's Bar hoping to find
a berth on a cruising boat!
The cruiser event of the year in Zihua, of course, is the Zihua
Sail Fest Feb. 1 - 5. This tremendous cruiser charity benefits
the Zetzahualcoyotl School for indigenous orphans and other young
ones in great need. We plan to be there with Profligate
to have fun and help support the good cause - and hope you'll
be there, too. For a complete schedule of the activities, go
Organizers expect as many as 100 cruising boats to participate.
Talking about wireless high speed internet access, the Punta
Mita Yacht & Surf Club hopes to be offering that service
to boats in that Banderas Bay anchorage by the end of January
- right after they have the meeting to found the club. The antenna
will be located at Margaritas Restaurant, which is one of the
palapa eateries on the beach. Details haven't been finalized,
but hopefully the service can be free to those who buy a round
of drinks or dinner once a week. Some of the costs will be offset
by Latitude, as we like to maintain a floating office
at that important cruiser crossroad during part of the winter.
By the way, our tastebuds tell us that Margaritas serves up some
of the best fish tacos in the Americas. Rather than the typical
small piece of artery-clogging, deep-fried fish folded up inside
a tortilla, these fish tacos feature big pieces of sautéed
tuna mixed with peppers and other stuff. You get two of them,
plus beans and rice - and a great view of the anchored boats,
surf, and islands - for about $5.
Thanks to the presence of the huge gated Four Seasons Resort
complex and other high-end vacation accommodations on the north
shore of Banderas Bay, about half of the palapa restaurants on
the beach at the Punta Mita anchorage have gone upscale. We've
enjoyed some sophisticated meals and excellent live music at
Chef Roger's Mañana, which has a very pleasant European
ambience. We also had a great dinner at a table on the sand with
Renne Waxlax and Anne Blunden of the Swan 65 Casseopia
at Tino's Mariscos, probably the most elegant of the palapa restaurants.
If you're looking for a nice dinner ashore south of Mazatlan,
this is the place. By the way, all the jetties in front of these
palapa restaurants are subject to either removal or extension
- whatever it will take to bring back the sand that disappeared
when the government built the jetties in '95. In addition, the
rather unsightly parking lot-bus depot behind the restaurants
is to be turned into a pedestrian plaza. As one resident said,
"The next three years are going to see radical changes at
Punta Mita." Fortunately, few of those changes should be
to the detriment of cruisers.
"After three months away, J.R. and I are back aboard our
Catana 47 cat Moon And Stars at the very nice Marina Tortuga
on Guatemala's Rio Dulce River," reports Lupe Dipp of Guadalajara
and Puerto Vallarta. "Once we got to the airport in Guatemala
City, it was still a five-hour drive, so we took a private car
for $45/person. You can save $10/person by taking the bus, and
if you're on a real budget, take the 'chicken bus' - along with
the chickens and other stuff - for just $5/person. The marina
charges us $190/month plus electricity for our 47-ft cat, which
isn't bad. We had no idea how beautiful this place was going
to be when we arrived. We're also surprised at how much European
blood has mixed in with the locals. We'll spend a month around
here, then head on to Panama. Thanks for the information in 'Lectronic about
Shelter Bay Marina at the old Fort Dickson site in Panama, as
that's where we'll leave our boat next. We won't immediately
transit the Canal as we want to spend more time in the Caribbean.
In late April, we're going to fly to Antigua with a group of
12 fellow Mexicans to compete at Antigua Sailing Week aboard
a chartered Swan. We're going to be proud to represent our country.
P.S. I'm loving every minute of being on our cat!"
"We're at Koh Phi Phi Don, Thailand, which you will remember
was badly damaged in the December 26, 2004 tsunami," reports
George Backhus of the Sausalito-based Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow.
"The area is still not completely rebuilt, but it's definitely
up and running, as beautiful as ever, and begging for more tourists.
The diving at nearby Koh Phi Phi Le is excellent - despite
quite a bit of diver impact."
"Hey, it's Miguel from St. Barth, but now I'm at Kata Beach,
Phuket, Thailand," writes sometime Profligate crew
Miguel. "While at the Ao Chalong YC the other day, I picked
up last February's Latitude and read about New Year's
Eve '03 in St. Barth. You even had a little blurb about me! Anyway,
I came here last September with Fast Eddy of Eddy's Restaurant
in St. Barth, and immediately fell in love with the place. It's
still nice, even after planeloads of rather large Scandinavians
have taken to lining the beaches. I love the beaches, the waves,
the Thai food - and accommodations are still reasonable. Next
week - I'm writing in early December - is the King's Cup, which
is the largest sailing regatta in Southeast Asia. There are going
to be about 100 boats competing, and I'm hoping to catch a ride
aboard a cat. Many cats are being built right here by a company
called Latitude 8. After the King's Cup there's going to be a
megayacht regatta, and I've got a ride aboard the 130-ft schooner
Yankee 2, which I know from the days when I sailed my
small boat across the Pacific. But I'll be back in St. Barth
for the Bucket in March."
Thanks to their response to the Latitude survey in 'Lectronic, we've
learned that Bill and Sam Fleetwood of the Monterey-based Gulfstar
50 Blue Banana are in Thailand also. "Even though
we're now on the other side of the world, we haven't missed a
Latitude. We get them come hell or high water - meaning
tsunamis." The couple - Sam is a woman - met through a Crew List ad, did the Baja
Ha-Ha in '97, the Puddle Jump in '99, and have been cruising
ever since. By the way, their favorite Latitude features
are Letters, the responses to Letters,
and the Latitude interviews. And yes, Bill and Sam, we
can still remember the last time we chatted - it was '99 and
we were at the little outdoor restaurant next to the Opequimar
Boatyard in Puerto Vallarta. You and Blue Banana were
about to head across the Pacific, and Profligate was about
to return to California."
There were some hair-raising snarls coming out of Marina Paradise
Harbormaster Dick Markie's office when we stopped by in early
December. No, they didn't come from Gina, Dick's wife, who radiates
vibrant health from all her energetic morning workouts. They
didn't even come from Eugenie 'the walking chandlery' Russell,
who heads up the J/World Sailing School based out of the marina.
No, the snarls came from Lola, a two-month-old mountain lion
that Markie cares for. He claims he's raising her as a domestic
pet, but we're not buying it. If anyone spills a drop of oil
on the docks a couple of months from now when Lola is a little
bit older, we fully expect to see the feline come charging down
the dock to claw a chunk out of the perpetrator's thigh. Markie
takes that much pride in running a clean marina.
"We're not going to be able to make it to the big New Year's
celebration in St. Barths again this year," report John
and Cynthia Tindle, with Mattie the boat dog, of the Hermosa
Beach-based Jeanneau 45 Utopia. "Cynthia is taking
the grandkids to the Rose Bowl instead, so she won't be able
to join me in Puerto Rico until January 4. By that time I'll
have the boat back in the water ready to resume our cruising
between Puerto Rico and Martinique. We'd go further down island,
but too many of those islands have restrictions on dogs. After
all these years in the Caribbean, this may be our last, as we're
thinking of sailing to Maine and then Florida. Our long term
goal is to bring our boat back to Paradise Marina. Old friends
will remember that we previously cruised our smaller Utopia in
Mexico for three years."
"I'm in Bequia headed north," reports John Anderton
of the Alameda-based Cabo Rico 37 Sanderling, "and
looking forward to being in St. Barth for the New Year's celebrations
once again. When I wrote you in early June predicting a robust
hurricane season here in the Caribbean, little did I realize
that we were headed for a record year. On December 7, we had
Hurricane Epsilon - the 24th named storm and 14th hurricane of
the Atlantic season - defy predictions by maintaining strength
and heading south! And I can't count the number of tropical depressions
that came through while I was in Trinidad this summer, as it
always seemed that there were at least two tropical waves to
the east of us."
The odd thing about the record Atlantic/Caribbean hurricane season
is that there was virtually no damage to the islands of the Eastern
Caribbean. It was also a quiet season along the coast of Mexico.
On December 12, we received the following email from Warwick
'Commodore' Tompkins and his wife Nancy of the Mill Valley-based
Wylie 38+ Flashgirl: "We're 650 miles from New Zealand's
Bay of Islands and going south like a freight train, about halfway
through our passage from the South Pacific islands to Opua. The
weather conditions are superb, with 18 to 22 knots over the port
quarter. We're broad-reaching with a double-reefed main and my
special red blast-reacher, thinking that this is what sailing
is all about. What a blast! The weather forecast is for good
weather all the way in to port. This is the first time we have
used a weather router, but since it's cyclone season, we're glad
to have the help."
And on December 16, we got an updated report. "Just this
minute we're motoring into the Bay of Islands, having arrived
from the tropical islands of the South Pacific. The North Island
of New Zealand is the 18th island we've visited since leaving
California - and it's the first one without palm trees. We're
excited to be here, although it's gray, drizzly, and cold - a
bit like we expect it is back in Northern California." As
Commodore and Nancy only left California in June, they had one
of the faster passages across the Pacific this season.
While in Banderas Bay, we bumped into Blair Grinols who, for
the first time in nine winters, isn't aboard his 45-ft Capricorn
Cat somewhere in the tropics. He and his wife Joanie built
a new house in central Oregon, but apparently didn't realize
how cold the winters are - and Blair hates to be cold. "At
the last minute we were going to do the Ha-Ha," Blair said,
"but then I had a little problem with my heart. Everything
is really great except for a little electrical problem, so they
put a pacemaker in just to be sure. "But you can count on
Capricorn Cat doing the Ha-Ha again this fall."
"I'd like to 'clear my name', as it were," writes Sam
Thayer of the Seattle-based Hans Christian 33 Pegasus.
"In a late November 'Lectronic,
you wrote that after I left the tow by Vicky Plett and her Seattle-based
Hans Christian 38 Inspiration At Sea to run back to Cabo
from Los Frailes, that I ran out of wind and demanded another
tow. The facts are that Inspiration had towed me toward
Los Frailes because several days earlier my motor mounts sheared
off, leaving me without an engine. In order to continue the buddyboating
with Inspiration - something we'd been doing since Neah
Bay, Washington - Vicky offered to tow me to La Paz. But then
we ran into a storm near Los Frailes. Unable to safely tow me
any longer, Vicky turned my boat loose, and took off for the
shelter of Los Frailes. Unfortunately, she was dismasted a short
time later. I sailed over to make sure she was all right, and
in the process blew out my main. I informed her that I was going
back to Cabo for help. Let's see, no motor, no sails, 35 to 40-knot
winds, and nine-ft seas. I requested a tow from the Mexican Navy
- which showed up in 30 minutes and towed me to Cabo. There my
engine mounts were repaired. I did not, nor ever would abandon
my vessel. Your article implied stupidity, which I resent. I've
since motored to La Paz, where I am waiting for Dockwise Yacht
Transport to deliver my boat back north in March. I request that
you print a correction, and welcome any questions."
While at the Cruisers Thanksgiving Dinner in Mazatlan, several
skippers who had just arrived from all the activities around
Frailes told us that you'd "left" or "abandoned"
your boat in Cabo. Since that's not true, we're more than happy
to print your correction. However, we want to caution cruisers
never to expect to be given a tow in Mexico, particularly by
the Mexican Navy. That they showed up in 30 minutes and actually
towed you to Cabo are what we would classify as two significant
miracles. While cruising in Mexico, we assume that we'd never
get help from anyone but other cruisers - because that's usually
Since you invited questions, we can't help but ask a couple.
First, why didn't you get your engine mounts fixed the first
time you were in Cabo? We can't imagine asking somebody to tow
a disabled boat 100 miles into the prevailing weather just to
be able to continue buddyboating. Second, one of the Profligate
crewmembers - a very experienced boatowner and skipper - was
puzzled as to why you requested - actually, he said you "demanded"
- a tow when you could have sailed downwind with a headsail.
In any event, we're glad that you and your boat are safe. We're
also glad that Inspiration At Sea wasn't dismasted while
towing you, because that surely would have resulted in heavy
guilt. We're sorry for Plett, who along with her boat, was slated
to join Pat Henry's women's sailing program in Puerto Vallarta
this winter. Plett says her boat is insured, so we hope she can
get her back in action quickly.
"After doing the '04 Baja
Ha-Ha, we spent the winter on mainland Mexico travelling
southeast to Zihua," report Mark and Debra Wilson of the
Long Beach-based DownEast 45 Seangel. "As we headed
up into the Sea of Cortez for the summer, we stopped at Santa
Rosalia - which is not to be missed! The town was founded by
the French, who were mining copper there, and even now isn't
a tourist town. We love it.
"As for the loss of the Newport 30 Sea Ya on the
way in to La Paz," Mark continues, "there is a sandbar,
not a reef, that runs parallel to the entrance channel for about
two miles. The sandbar can't be crossed, and you have to enter
the channel out by the Pemex fuel tank farm, leaving all the
red buoys to the right. By the way, I found it a shame that the
owner/skipper of that boat said it was a crewmember who veered
off course and into shallow water. As a licensed captain who
ran commercial vessels for many years, I can't imagine turning
control of my boat over to anyone while approaching a new or
unfamiliar harbor - let alone doing it at night."
The folks on Sea Ya had had a very rough trip up in high
winds, and were reportedly exhausted when entering the channel
to La Paz. As we write this, we're not familiar with the exact
circumstances and states of mind of the crew at the time, but
we can certainly imagine circumstances in which it would be most
prudent for the skipper to give the helm to the crew - such as
if the skipper were hallucinating from fatigue. Hindsight is
20-20, of course, but perhaps the best solution would have been
to have pulled into the safe harbor of Pichilinque before even
getting to the crooked and somewhat confusing channel into La
Paz. By the way, we realize that the hazard next to the channel
into La Paz is composed of sand, but we consider all 'raised
ledges', not just those made of coral or rock, to meet the general
definition of 'reef'.
Bruce Winship of the Alameda-based Crowther 33 cat Chewbacca
says that, with their two daughters getting older, they needed
to increase the number of 'facilities' on their boat. He sent
us the photo at left to depict their solution to the problem.
The question is whether they are joking, or whether they have
been out in the salt air too long.
In recent years, Beneteau-owned Lagoon has introduced a line
of catamarans - including the Lagoon 440 - that have the helm
located on a second level above the main cockpit. Although Lagoon
claims the primary market for these cats is private ownership,
we've always felt they would be hugely popular with charterers.
In any event, a skipper of one of these multilevel 440s in the
recent Atlantic Rally for cruisers (ARC) reported hitting over
27 knots! A 44-ft cruising boat loaded down with stores for a
transAtlantic crossing doing 27 knots - that fits our definition
of 'really flying'. We're pretty sure that the skipper quickly
ordered a reduction in sail - and a change of shorts.
Speaking of the 20th annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the
November-December 2,900-mile event from the Canary Islands to
St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean didn't have the best weather
this time around. There was a terrific fleet of 224 boats, including
a record 20 multihulls, but the sailing conditions were substandard.
Shortly after the November 20th start, everyone had to deal with
Delta, a tropical storm completely unexpected so late in the
season and so far east. The more northerly ARC boats ended up
having to sail to windward, while the more southerly boats bobbed
around in hot and windless conditions. Soon the less performance-oriented
boats were diverting to the Cape Verdes for fuel. The ARC is
known for great tradewind sailing, but this year even some of
the faster boats were at sea for 11 days before they got into
that good stuff. But then after just a couple of days of nice
sailing, much of the fleet got hammered by strong trades blowing
30 knots and squalls gusting to 40. That's the kind of wind that
was needed to propel the previously-mentioned Lagoon 440 to her
nearly 30 mph burst.
The first boat to finish the ARC was Mike Slade's R/P 92 Leopard
of London, which reached St. Lucia in a pedestrian time of
13 days and 5 hours. She was under charter to a group of eight
Russians, whose watch schedule was an uncommon one hour on, seven
hours off. The thought of a single charterer sailing one of the
biggest and fastest racing/cruising yachts in the world must
have prevented Aussie skipper Chris Sherlock from getting much
sleep. Dada V, a Lagoon 57 catamaran, was the first multihull
to finish, in a time of 17 days, 6 hours. As it was a difficult
race for even the big fully crewed boats, you can imagine what
an enduro it must have been for Bob and Gill Tetley of the Hallberg-Rassy
53 Alter Ego of Chichester, the first doublehanders to
As one would expect with a huge fleet crossing such a wide ocean,
there was plenty of excitement and several mishaps. On November
30, for example, the two-year-old Sweden 42 Caliso had
to be abandoned because she was leaking badly around a cracked
keel box. She had apparently suffered damage in the keel area
before, and it had been inadequately repaired. The six crew,
comforted by the many ARC boats standing by to help, were taken
off on a ship headed to Philadelphia. Many of the ARC boats had
gear damage and ripped chutes, and there were a couple of broken
bones and a million bruises. But for those who persevered, there
was plenty of sun, rum, music - and a great sense of accomplishment
- to be savored upon arrival at the Rodney Bay festivities.
The other big rally in the Atlantic in the fall was early November's
West Marine Caribbean 1500 from Hampton, Virginia, to Tortola
in the British Virgins. The 16th running of the event attracted
51 entries from 32 to 62 feet, including a record six multihulls.
It's noteworthy that 22 of the boats had done the rally at least
once before. The fleet had three days of light air followed by
a number of days of brisk winds with larger seas. Rex Conn and
Celeste Conn's Newick 50 trimaran Alacrity used the latter
conditions to reel off 300-mile days and finish in 6 days, 5
hours. We're happy that Alacrity did so well, for the
last time we saw Conn was two years ago when his brand new tri
raced our cat in the St. Martin Heineken Regatta, and he dropped
the rig - in spectacular fashion - early in the first race. He
was understandably bummed out. The 1500's handicap winner was
Charles Cunningham's Park City-based Hylas 54 Agua Dulce.
Her victory was interesting because she - along with two other
54-foot boats - had lost her rudder and needed to finish towing
a warp for steerage! Steve Black, the rally organizer, speculated
that the three rudders were lost due to a combination of powerful
autopilots - which don't sense the stress they are putting on
a rudder - and steep seas. Another unidentified boat lost her
mast after a spreader failure. Most of the boats finished in
under nine days, which made this one of the faster Caribbean
It's hard to believe that a rare late November tropical storm
in the eastern North Atlantic would affect more than a couple
of boats from California, but that's exactly what happened.
"While on our way from our Aromas (California) home back
to our boat in Tenerife in the Canary Islands, we tuned into
the Weather Channel and were surprised to see Tropical Storm
Delta heading right for the Canaries!" write Joe and Susan
Altman of the Wauquiez 45 Suzy Q. Since the storm was
due to hit Monday, the next day, there was nothing we could do
but hope for the best. When we arrived at the airport on the
south end of Tenerife on Tuesday night, there didn't seem to
be any damage. But the locals told us the storm, with winds to
80 knots, had hit hardest up north by Santa Cruz de Tenerife
- right where our boat was! As we travelled north by bus, we
began to see downed trees, parts of transmission towers on the
side of the road, and lots of power outages. Anxiously making
our way down to the marina, we found Suzy Q looking to
be in good shape - at least in the darkness. In the light of
day, however, we found a cracked teak toerail, two bent stanchions,
and one lost fender. We were fortunate because our finger dock
held together - it was the only one in our area that did. All
the rest were either dangerously bent or floating upside down.
The failed finger docks created a domino effect when they broke
loose, taking the docks and the boats attached to them, and smashing
them into the docks and boats to leeward. The jagged edges of
the dock wreaked havoc on fiberglass hulls. Fortunately, no boats
were lost and nobody was hurt or killed. Most everyone here is
still preparing to cross the Atlantic, but now we're all keeping
a careful eye on Tropical Storm Epsilon."
David Berke of San Francisco, crew aboard John and Nancy Settle's
San Diego-based Roberts 58 Amor Fati, reports they were
also in the Canaries when Delta hit. But they were at Rubicon
Marina at Playa Blanca on the island of Lanzarote. "We recorded
61 knots on Amor Fati, and the marina recorded 75 knots
at their building. There was mostly minor damage to boats, and
no sinkings. The most damaged boat was the French high-tech foiler
trimaran Hydroptere, which is financially backed by Airbus.
She was extensively damaged. It was a helluva night, and naturally
the strongest winds were between sunset and 3 a.m. This is a
nice place, so we're sorry we have to leave on our 18 to 22-day
passage to Barbados tomorrow."
"Andy and Jill Rothman of the Tiburon-based J/44 First
Light will have begun an Atlantic crossing in late December
that will all but complete their circumnavigation," reports
Bruce Ladd of the Peninsula, who plans to crew for them. Ladd
first met the Rothmans at the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts in
1996. He was cruising aboard his Valiant 40 Mo' Betta,
and they'd just come down from Annapolis with their new J/44
and were about to head west around the world. Prior to going
cruising, Rothman had won the Express 37 season championship
on San Francisco Bay with Spirit, the first Express 37
with wheel steering to do so. The Rothmans' circumnavigation
hasn't been a rushed one. For example, they spent one entire
summer in Croatia. And Ladd reports that after getting their
boat out of storage near Rome this year, they continued on to
Italy, France, and Spain. They were clobbered by very confused
seas on the way to the Canary Islands, their jumping off point
for the Caribbean. And when they got to the Canaries, their boat
was hit by the same tropical storm winds that nailed Amor
Fati and Suzy Q. But she came through unscathed. The
Rothmans and Ladd expect to make landfall at or around Tobago,
after which they'll do some cruising in the Southern Caribbean.
When you read this, the 2006 winter cruising season will be in
full swing. If this is your year - or one of your years - to
enjoy it, make a vow to do so to the fullest. Cruise with passion!
Meet lots of new people. Go to lots of new places, or better
yet investigate familiar ones. Live!