Changes in Latitudes

February, 2001

With reports this month from Tinsley Light after 21 summers in Northern Europe; from Speck on Panama's Portobello and the San Blas Islands; from Velella on Z-town; from Shayna on senior cruising in the Med; from Suntrekka on cruising from New Zealand to South Africa; from Fog City on finishing up the sailing part of a circumnavigation in Florida; and Cruise Notes.

Tinsley Light - Scanmar 33
Hank & Mary Grandin
21 Years Of Cruising Europe

In 1984, we published a feature about the European sailing adventures of Sausalito's Hank and Mary Grandin. In it, we reported that as of 1980, Hank had been sailing for more than 50 years, and had done countless races in the Bay, along the coast, and to Mexico, Hawaii and Tahiti. And that in 1980, he decided that he wanted to do a shorthanded TransAtlantic Race. So he took delivery of an Olson 30 he named - like all of his sailboats - Tinsley Light. The following year, he and his son Michael sailed the boat from the East Coast to England in order to position the boat for the start of the TransAtlantic Race. However, after the boat was rolled and had her tiller snapped off in 50-knot winds on the leg from the Azores to England, Hank understandably lost his enthusiasm for a race in such a small ultralight. But with the boat over there, he and his wife Mary - who had never cared for competitive sailing - began spending their summers cruising the little Olson in Northern Europe. They both loved it. In fact, at the time we published the article, the couple had finished their third year in Europe, and Hank said that if the fates were willing, he and Mary would continue sailing 12 summer weeks a year in Europe "into the 21st century."

The fates were willing, and the Grandins spent 12 summer weeks a year for 21 years cruising over there. Hank said that he and Mary - often times accompanied by good sailing friends - went just about everywhere in Northern Europe not once, but twice. The only execeptions were the Shetland Islands and the western part of Ireland. Their favorite cruising areas were southern Ireland, all of Scandinavia, and Mary's favorite, the area just outside of Stockholm.

When most people think of cruising in Europe, they think of the warm weather areas around the Med. But the fair-skinned Hank doesn't tolerate relentlss sunshine very well, and neither he nor Mary particularly care for ocean swimming. So they hardly spent any time at all in the Med. "Lots of people assume that it would be cold cruising Northern Europe," says Hank, "but it's only cold if you're interested in swimming. Otherwise the temperatures are just fine."

A graduate of Stanford in economics, Hank kept a close track of expenses - and they were surprisingly low. He figures it never cost them more than $12,000 a year for everything, including airline tickets, boat storage, new sails and a new engine, berthing and dining - as well as the 'expense' of $6,000 a year for not being able to get a 10% return on the $60,000 invested in the boat. "And it's not as if money was an issue," he says, "as we weren't trying to scrimp or live on any particular kind of budget."

At the end of last summer, the couple, now 73 years old, decided they were "done with Europe." So they took the boat to Palma de Mallora and had her shipped to Martinique, where they met the boat for some winter cruising in the Caribbean. By the time you read this, Hank and another long time sailing pal will be sailing the boat to Florida for a refit.

- latitude 38 1/10/01

Speck - Gemini 32 Cat
Irwin Studenberg & Judy White
Colon To The San Blas Islands
(Detroit And San Diego)

I left off our last installment - August '00 Changes - when we returned to Colon, Panama, after two weeks up the Rio Chagres. After some repairs and provisioning in Colon, we started making daytrips in the direction of the San Blas Islands. After a 4.5 hour sail from Colon, we were 20 miles to the east at historic Portobello, which was named by Columbus in 1502. Portobello has a nicely sheltered harbor and is surrounded by four beautiful forts that the Spanish built to protect their treasures from the British, French and pirates during the 1600s. We anchored in 20 feet of water in front of one of the forts, which provided a magnificent vista when we awoke each morning. Locals in cayucas - dugout canoes - periodically stopped by with fruits and vegetables as well as lobsters and crab - the big ones of which were three feet across! Everything was at bargain basement prices, such as crab for $2 to $3.

Although at one time Portobello was one of the most important cities in the Spanish empire, it's now just a quiet village of 3,000. The dusty streets intertwine with the stone walls and the forts. Although there are four small grocery stores all within a block or two of each other, the supplies were still limited to frozen meats, long lasting root vegetables and lots of canned goods. It was a rare treat to see a cabbage or some broccoli. But they had plenty of ice cream, so they must have known that Irwin was coming. Interestingly, most of the stores were owned and operated by Chinese.

We stayed in Portobello three days, and enjoyed swimming off the boat - our first time in the Caribbean Sea - in water that was both clear and warm. One day we decided to climb to the top of two of the four forts. It was 1,000 feet up to the top of one of the observation stations, from which there was a marvelous view in all directions out to sea. Given these views, it would have been easy for the Spanish to have detected an approaching enemy and prepare for them. The forts and associated vegetation were always being cleaned and trimmed by the local citizens, as they are the pride of the village.

Our next stops were about eight miles to the east at the adjacent islands of Isla Linton and Isla Grande. Both are about a mile long and offer fine protection in their lee. Isla Linton has one sleepy village where only limited supplies are available. Isla Grande is both larger and more interesting, as on weekends it becomes a bustling weekend retreat for many folks from Panama City and Colon. Its only main street runs parallel to the beach for the length of the island, and there are many restaurants and bars dotted between the beach house and the tiendas. During the week, Isla Grande is also a sleepy place, but come the weekend, Panamanians brown themselves on the beaches each day and party until the wee hours of the night.

The challenge for cruisers who visit Isla Grande is to secure water. There are no pipes to the mainland, so all the town's water is collected in a large cistern high on a hill. There was a major drought when we were there, so no restaurant was willing to let us tap into their water supply. In order to get water, we had to get it directly from the cistern's pipe coming down the hillside to the village. In order to reach the pipe, Irwin had to dinghy through a narrow cut with a fast current, then negotiate a quarter mile of shoal area in order to land the dinghy. Then he had to climb a small hill to actually fetch the water . . . "and Jack fell down and broke his crown."

We found the best grocery store across the channel at the mainland village of La Guarya. Once again, it was owned by a nice Chinese couple. I'd made four trips to China back in the '80s, so I was able to speak a few words of Chinese - count to five, say 'thank you' and ask where the bathroom was. They were nonetheless delighted to see someone attempt to speak in their native language. When we reverted back to Spanish, I learned that they were sent from Canton to Panama 20 years before in order to start a business. They were part of the mass exodus from China after Nixon met with Mao. Immigration laws in Panama are very lenient, so that wasn't a problem. They continue to send money back to China so that family members might soon be able to join them. We saw many Chinese who operated businesses in Panama, but we seldom saw any Chinese on the streets or in the markets. They are too busy running their businesses for pleasure.

Our next stop was the San Blas Islands - of which there are 365 - further to the east. A caution about navigation in this part of the world. When the charts don't agree with physical reality - which is sometimes the case - believe reality. You'll have the best luck negotiating these waters with someone on the bow wearing polaroid sunglasses, as it can be very shallow and there are many reefs. But as we were to later discover, that's not always enough.

Chichime, our first stop in the San Blas, is one of those picturesque islands that looks like the cover of a travel magazine. The green palms lean over the beautiful white sandy beaches that front the turquoise blue Caribbean Sea. The water is warm and crystal clear, making for wonderful snorkeling among the numerous coral heads. Looking out from Chichime, you can see many of the other San Blas Islands. Some are just 20 feet around with two palm trees. Some are a quarter of a mile long or more, big enough for a coconut forest and homes for several Kuna families.

Having barely dropped anchor at Chichime, we were immediately surrounded by little Kuna women in their cayucos. They spread their molas out for sale - and would not leave! A mola is the traditional Kuna handicraft made of brightly colored pieces of layered cloth. Cuts are made through the layers to form different designs of animals, people or activities. The layers are sewn together with very fine stitching; the finer the stitch, the higher the quality. The molas - it translates to 'blouse' in the Kuna language - are about 10 x 12 inches in size and are used as front and back panels for their traditional blouses worn with the serape style cloth skirts. I am told that the very best ones sell for $300 to $500 in the States.

We kept telling the ladies in the cayucos that we were tired and needed to rest, and would later decide on which ones we liked. They only agreed to leave after I told them they could come back the next day - which they did at 7:00 a.m.! These women are small in stature, but were hardcore salespeople. Once again they spread their molas out by the dozen, eventually wearing us down into buying some.

Not much is known about the history of the Kuna people, who are the second smallest people in the world after the Aborigines. It's thought they came from Colombia and the Darien region, but only date back about 400 years. The San Blas is an independent region of Panama and has its own government. But it still holds two representative positions in the Panamanian legislature.

Being a matriarchal society, the Kuna women handle most of the business transactions. The men wear the regularly tropical garb of plain T-shirts and shorts, while the women dress elaborately, using molas to decorate the tops of their colorful blouses. Many of the women wrap their arms from wrist to elbow and their legs from ankle to knee with chains of small beads. It's the women who are the attraction to the curious tourist, but not in a sexual way. Being business oriented, they charge $1 per person per photograph! It gets a little pricey when a group gathers.

In addition to hard-selling their molas and charging for photographs, the Kunas also began asking for money and supplies. We gladly gave them some milk, sugar and a few other things, but soon learned that they continually beg for whatever they can get from the cruisers. We tried to barter for a few molas, but it was strictly moolah molas. After three days of Kunas looking into our ports and having no privacy during daylight hours because they hung around the sides of the boat patiently waiting and waiting to sell, we finally decided to bail from Chichime and join a flotilla of friends down at the East Holandes, the next and largest set of islands in the San Blas group.

Upon entering from the east end of Holandes Channel, we managed to go aground on a sandy reef. It was scary stuff! How can you run aground with a catamaran that only draws 18 inches? Well, the light was wrong, the chart was misleading, the reef was hidden by the opaque water - and bam!, it just happens. Thanks to the shallow draft, Irwin was able to jump out of the boat and push us off the edge of the reef - something he wouldn't have been able to do with most monohulls. Despite breaking a rudder, we managed to continue on and anchor among nine cruising boats that collectively hailed from all parts of the globe.

Per the 'Kuna code', the locals aren't allowed to badger cruisers in the East Holandes, so we finally got a little peace! We'd anchored in 12 feet of crystal clear water in an anchorage that is completely protected by reefs and islands. It was heavenly diving off the edge of the boat to cool off during the heat of the day. And each morning, I'd wake up and immediately dive into the refreshing water and swim two laps around the boat. We snorkeled and speared for fish from the dinghy at the various reefs that surrounded us. Every night we managed to have mighty fine dinners of something delicious from the sea. Once a week, all the cruisers would have a trash-burning/cocktail party or potluck on the island. We'd arrive one hour before sunset to share snacks, beer, swap stories and burn our trash.

One day I asked Victor, the local Kuna landlord of the East Holandes, about the family lifestyle of the Kuna culture. He told me that marriages are arranged between island clans, and that most girls are married between 12 and 16. They are assigned an island on which to live and work in the coconut groves. Once the children are of school age, they are sent to the larger islands for schooling, usually living with aunts and uncles. A few go on to college in Panama City, but most just get a three to five year education before returning to their native island for marriage. Divorce is not an option, and many are grandparents by the age of 30-35. The women spend their days making molas, beading for ankle and wrist bracelets, and preparing meals. Their diet consists of lobster, crab and fish - when they can catch it - as well as rice, coconut and fruits. There are no vegetables other than the occasional canned variety. It is a subsistence lifestyle at best.

The Kuna houses are made of bamboo, with thatched roofs and open air sides. They are very vulnerable to the high winds and rains of the islands. Life is simple, as they harvest the coconuts for sale to Colombia and fish for dinner. In addition to coconuts, they grow the most delicious mangoes, avocado and bananas. They have so many of these that at Victor's island they would daily give all of us a stash of fruits as gifts. They have no electricity and get all their water from the almost daily rains. It's a simple and primitive culture.

Since we were getting short on supplies and also needed some wood to build a rudder, we decided to spend a few days at an island near shore called Rio Diablo. This is also the 'capital' of the Kuna Government. Victor requested a ride to Rio Diablo with us, as his daughter was going to school there and living with his sister. Victor was happy to not have to make the trip in a dugout canoe, and we were happy to have him as navigator.

We stayed at Rio Diablo for four days while Irwin had a man in the village build him a new rudder out of mahogany. We shopped in the village for simple provisioning, then took our dinghy three miles up the river to wash clothes and gather fresh mountain water. The town of Rio Diablo was very dusty and dry and home to many albino Kunas. We learned that albinos are considered the 'chosen special' people of the Kunas.

It's best to have a guide for shopping at the tiendas in Rio Diablo, as the stores can be difficult to find since they are sometimes just an open window at a house, and each store might only sell a couple of items. If you want potatoes and flour, you go to one house, but you go to another for beer and eggs. Upon landing the dinghy at the fuel dock, we were approached by Frederico, the unofficial Kuna host at Rio Diablo. He speaks English well and knew where to find everything - including frozen meats, ice cream and even a few vegetables.

While at Rio Diablo, we got in the middle of a bit of Kuna politics. It seems they are aware of how the Kunas from Chichime pester the cruisers, and how two Kunas in particular sell their molas for $40, which is considered a great deal of money. During our stay, Victor arranged for three Kuna chiefs to come aboard Speck for a "meeting" and "discussion" about the sale of molas. In my imperfect Spanish, I played neutral to the cause, believing in free enterprise and not wanting to get any individual Kuna in trouble. I refused to incriminate any of the suspects in question, as what they were looking for were the names and prices charged for molas by certain Kunas - in particular, one famous Kuna transvestite who sells 'her' exquisite and finely made molas for upwards of $40. I figured 'she' deserves more because she does better work and dresses in the Kuna costume. The Kunas don't have an issue with homosexuality, and we were told that it's prevalent. The real issue was that the Kuna government tries to keep everyone small and equal, as capitalism isn't their way. When the officials realized that I wouldn't incriminate anyone, they left, dissatisfied.

Our next report is on Cartagena, Colombia.

- judy 11/10/00

Velella - Wylie 31
Garth Wilcox & Wendy Hinman
Feliz Año Nuevo, Z-Town

We arrived in Zihuatenejo just a few days before Christmas, having sailed directly from the Sea of Cortez on a seven-day, 727-mile voyage. We had good sailing conditions during what we had thought would be a slow trip, so there was very little temptation to motor. As a result of more wind and waves than we anticipated, our trolling generator spinner flew out of the water and disappeared. It was our first gear casualty.

As we rounded Cabo Corrientes - just off Puerto Vallarta and about halfway between Cabo and Z-town - we were suddenly overwhelmed by the warm and moist tropical air. We started peeling off the layers of clothes, and from then on often wore nothing at all. Fortunately, we have a nice sailing awning, so we didn't bake in the sun, but we're from the Pacific Northwest and are still adjusting to heat and humidity. The temperatures are typically in the high 80s with about 80% humidity - reminding me of the hot summer days when I lived in Washington, DC, and our backyard pool was the key to summer survival. Installing fans has moved to priority status at the top of our projects list.

After checking in at Z-town, we began a search for Christmas decorations. We found a 10-inch tall fake tree, some tiny hand-painted glass balls, three-inch candy canes, a short string of garland and some ribbon. These items, along with some strategically placed Christmas candies and miniature stockings, gave our boat a holiday atmosphere. Many cruisers decorated their boats with Christmas lights, but we didn't have the juice for it.

We even had enough time before Christmas to find a little something for each other. And, in honor of a long tradition, we arranged to bake Christmas cookies with friends Ken and Cath on Felicity. We cut the cookie shapes freehand while listening to carols. Because of the ambient temperature and heat of the oven, we were dripping in sweat and had to go out to the cockpit to hose ourselves down. On Christmas Eve, a number of cruisers gathered in dinghies for caroling around the harbor. Our group filled eight dinghies, and while we had spirit - and spirits - we were a little out of tune and not everyone remembered all the words. On Christmas afternoon, many of the cruisers gathered at Rick's Bar for a traditional turkey dinner.

Rick's Bar, now located near the center of town on the way to and from almost everywhere in town, is cruiser central. From the bar, Rick coordinates laundry, propane refills, showers, mail, book swaps, lodging, cruising meetings, and provides entertainment through games, music, and dancing. If you need anything, Rick can probably tell you where to find it or get it for you. Each Saturday, Rick's features a troupe of traditional Mexican folk dancers. We were quite impressed with the skill of the dancers, the costumes and the choreography - in fact, I've watched every Saturday since we arrived.

For New Year's Eve, Rick invited all the cruisers up to his villa for a BBQ, swim, and celebration. We stopped in the town square - centered around a waterfront basketball/volleyball court - to watch the fireworks, the bands, and the celebration at the stroke of midnight. The music didn't stop until dawn.

When we needed to escape the heat, we'd take the bus - 35 cents - to the nearby tourist resort of Ixtapa for a double feature in the impressive new air-conditioned theater. It's just $3.50 per couple for two movies on Thursdays. What we saw wasn't as important as the air conditioning. Another favorite escape is to sit under an umbrella on the beach, ordering food and drink to our heart's content. It's shocking how fast the bill can add up. Snorkeling has been a great treat as well, although it doesn't take long to get burned in the midday sun. We have also located an air-conditioned Internet cafe that we all frequent to stay in touch with friends and stay cool. It's also cool, of course, beneath the fans at Rick's Bar.

We've found a few edible treats to enjoy around town. There's a restaurant that offers a variety of tamales for just $1 each. We've also enjoyed hamburgesas - hamburgers - from the evening street vendor on the town square. Down here, 'the works' means American cheese, avocado, ham, salsa, onions, mayo, mustard and ketchup - all for $1.50. Some things seem pretty inexpensive, others are comparable to back in the States.

The big air-conditioned grocery store features many non-food items - like a new Fred Meyers - and a large selection. We balance our purchases between the air-conditioned grocery store and the local market. Those of us used to the prepackaged meat in styrofoam prefer the grocery store to the butchers in the open market, where it's common to see pig's heads and unrecognizable cuts of meat. We generally buy our fruits and vegetables from the fresh vendors in the central market, which is a shorter walk. Many of us cruisers have been on a quest for good wine and cheese ever since we realized what a poor selection they have down here. We should have stocked up on these items before leaving the States, but didn't think it would be necessary. Except for good wine and cheese and marine parts, we can find everything we need.

Having been around a little while, we now realize that we have the smallest and most basic boat in just about every anchorage. Many cruisers have computer charts, the ability to receive email onboard, DVD movies - and many other amenities that we never thought of - let alone considered putting on our boat. Some cruisers consider us deprived, but so far we feel pretty content with our boat and our choices. Sometimes we long for a few of the luxuries some of the other cruisers have, so we have to continually remind ourselves that we're all on different cruises and have different priorities. Garth and I weren't willing to give up our future financial security or the ability to cruise at such a young age to have a big and fancy boat.

When we listen to the net each morning, we hear cruisers go down their list of repair needs. This is when we're most glad our boat is so simple. We're also the only boat we know that doesn't have to listen to the engine for an hour or two each day in order to charge up the batteries for all the power the amenities require. Our largest power consumer is our refrigerator - and we've decided that most of the time we don't need it. It's a good thing, because our solar panels don't generate enough juice to run it, and we were unwilling to listen to the engine running everyday. We've learned that many food items - no matter what the packaging might say - don't need to be refrigerated. Lately we've turned our refrigerator off altogether, and have been buying ice for cold drinks every few days. Without the fridge sucking on our battery, our solar panels and our trolling generator took care of all our power needs. These free energy sources mean we can avoid having to waste gas, pay astronomical prices for fuel, listen to the irritating noise, or have to put up with the heat and smell.

We've also observed that many of the luxuries and amenities that have become more common in the cruising community can turn the cruising lifestyle into a rat-race that many of us wanted to leave behind. Garth is continually remarking how cruising has changed since the old days - which makes him sound like a geezer, doesn't it? For example, communication is now primarily via VHF instead of in person. And since there are so many cruisers now, it's easy to miss direct contact with the communities we are visiting and thereby forego some of the charm of this lifestyle. In a few months I'll let you know if I share these opinions. In any event, we have enjoyed our lifestyle so far and look forward to exploring Mexico over the next couple of months.

- wendy & garth 1/15/01

Shayna - Hylas 45.5 sloop
Larry Hirsch & Dorothy Taylor
Senior Cruising In Europe
(San Diego)

[Due to the incompetence of the Changes Editor, this Changes, covering the year 1999, didn't run a year ago when it was supposed to. But a year late is better than never when it's the tale of a couple of 70-year-olds happily cruising all over Europe. The second half of it will run in the March issue. Furthermore, the next installment - covering their European adventures for 2000 - will run in the April 1 issue. We promise.]

We haven't written since August of '98, when we were staying in the marina in Lagos, Portugal. In that Changes we recounted our first-ever transatlantic crossing. It was with a special delight that we remembered our visit to the lovely Azores, where we added our boat logo to the 'great wall' along the quay. Dorothy celebrated her 71st birthday at Peter's Sports Bar, the yachtie hangout in the middle of the Atlantic. How time flies! Just a few days ago we celebrated Dorothy's 72nd birthday aboard Shayna while anchored at the Madelena Islands off of Sardinia, Italy.

There was much excitement in our year of cruising, and we'll try to recount it here. After leaving Lagos, we sailed south and east along the Atlantic coastlines of Portugal and Spain to Puerto Sherry. Our boat wintered for three months in the water at the plush - but bankrupt - resort and marina on the Bay of Cadiz. The marina is next to the huge U.S. Navy base at Rota, Spain. We could have wintered at nearby Rota Marina, which is slightly less expensive and more convenient to the charming old world town of Rota, but we preferred Puerto Sherry's fixed concrete as opposed to Rota Marina's floating pontoon slips. Dumb luck was with us again, because when we returned from three months back in San Diego, we found that a severe winter storm had caused serious damage to boats at Rota - but not to ours or the others at Puerto Sherry.

Incidentally, while back in the States we made a fast trip to Las Vegas - without telling anybody - and got 'hitched' in a quickie chapel service on the famous Las Vegas strip. Why? Maybe to set a moral example for our combined nine grandchildren. After all, the two of us have been sailing together on this cruise for six years now - and even before then. Ours was a chance meeting at the San Diego Polaris Sailing Club for Singles. Our respective first spouses of 35 years had both passed away of cancer in 1987.

If you're wondering, Puerto Sherry's name does honor the great sherry and port wines of that region of Spain. There's also much to do in the area. Thanks to the heavy military demand for seats all year, flights to the U.S. are frequent and cheap. The proximity of the big military base also means that rental cars are inexpensive, so we drove 2,000 miles to Genoa, Italy, and back. While there, we took in the terrific Genoa Boat Show. When it came time to drive back, we discovered that we could take the autoferry from Genoa to Barcelona for almost the same price - when you consider fuel, tolls, and hotel rooms - as it would cost to drive. We had a wonderful trip.

After getting some quality sail repairs and a new sail cover at favorable prices in Puerto Sherry, we headed east toward Gibraltar, stopping at reasonably priced marinas or anchoring out along the way. Gib is truly an international city, as we saw boats and yachts from everywhere you can imagine heading to just about everywhere you can imagine. The provisioning was good, fuel relatively cheap, and the 'King's English' widely spoken. We didn't see many Americans in Gib; in fact, we didn't see many Americans anywhere in the Med.

Since we were so close to Morocco, we hopped on a ferry. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience - including sharing a train compartment from Tangiers to Rabat with three local smugglers. It wasn't so funny at the time, of course, as we had unpleasant visions of spending time in a Moroccan jail.

After sailing east from Gib, we realized we were finally in the Med! We continued along Spain's Costa del Sol, stopping almost exclusively at marinas, as good anchorages were few and far between. Unfortunately, the Costa del Sol has been overdeveloped with seemingly wall-to-wall high-rise condos and hotels.

While in Gib, we'd bought an eight-foot aluminum step ladder, added a plywood facing, and used it as a boarding plank for when we were Med-tied. The ladder is among the best boat gear investments we've ever made. It's more convenient than a wood plank, and it's almost indispensible because everyone in the Med really does Med-tie. Unlike the others, however, we always moor bow-to the dock or quai. That means we can still lower and use our stern-mounted dinghy, and it also gives us some privacy in the cockpit. Finally, it's much easier to maneuver our boat when in forward.

One of our favorite stops on the Costa del Sol was at the Almerimar Marina, which has good haulout facilities, is inexpensive, and where we were permitted to work on our own boat. Lots of English was spoken there, and it was at Almerimar that we saw the most American boats - three. Thanks to inexpensive car rentals, we saw much more of Spain - including the Sierra Madre Mountains, where they were still skiing in April.

After pleasant stops at Torreviejas, Moyara, Cala Grasso and a good anchorage at Cala Portinatx, we took off for Mallorca, the largest of Spain's four Balearic Islands. We arrived at Palma in the middle of May without a working alternator or genset - to find 'no vacancy' signs out at all the marinas. Palma is the center of yachting in the Med, and gets very crowded during the season. We finally got a mooring for two days - which we managed to stretch to two weeks - at Pier 46. The nice folks at Marine Machine got our electrical problems sorted out. Everybody says that Mallorca is pretty much for the 'rich and famous' - an evaluation we found to be accurate.

Our next stop was the second largest of the Balearic Islands, Menorca, which the guide books advised was less developed and hectic than Mallorca. It was. We especially enjoyed the historic port of Mahon (Mao) - which is where mayonnaise was created hundreds of years ago.

We departed Mahon for 250-mile distant Sardinia, Italy, two hours ahead of the San Francisco-based Oyster 50 Darling. Motorsailing all the way, we arrived just three hours behind them. The youngish couple - just about everybody seems young to us these days - aboard the Oyster had gone public with their wildly successful optical business a couple of years before, bought the new Oyster in England, and had her shipped to the Bay Area. Unfortunately, they were too busy to sail her for the two years they had her in Northern California. So when they sold their business, they had the Oyster shipped all the way back to Spain, then flew over with their two-year-old child and nanny. Life can be beautiful.

Hope we haven't bored you, as we have no heroic sea tales yet. By the way, when we returned to San Diego for the winter holidays, we made another trip to Las Vegas to celebrate our first anniversary! We also went to Mammoth to do some skiing with the kids - although I gave up on snowboarding!

- larry & dorothy

Readers - Are Larry and Dorothy an inspiration to adventurous seniors or what? We'll have the second half of their year 1999 European cruising adventures in the March 1 issue, and their year 2000 European cruising adventures in the April 1 issue.

Suntrekka - N/A
Richard Case
New Zealand To South Africa
(Newport Beach)

What have I been up to since last writing from New Zealand? In May of '99, I left Russell in the Bay of Islands for Suva, Fiji, a sometimes dangerous 1,200-mile passage. I had to motor for the first 50 hours, after which I had about 25 knots of wind from the east. It could have been worse. When I got to Fiji, I visited Yanuga Island, Musket Cove on Malololailai, and spent a couple of weeks in the Mamuntha Group. It was nothing but good times and great people - and mostly fine weather.

In July, I took off on the approximately 600-mile voyage to Port Vila, Vanuatu. It was one of my best ocean passages ever, as the winds were a perfect 15 knots from the southeast, there were powder puff clouds, but no squalls. After thoroughly enjoying Port Vila for a month, I set out for Noumea, New Caledonia, which is about a 400-mile passage. But I was driven back after 30-knot headwinds made me reconsider my sanity. Once I got back to Port Vila, alternator problems kept me in port until September when I finally did make the trip to Port Vila. By mid October, I'd covered the last 600 or so miles to Bundaberg, Australia, where I stayed on a mooring in the Mid Town Marina for five months.

In March of last year, I hauled the boat to paint the bottom and took off again, this time up the Great Barrier Reef. There were many delightful anchorages, so I only sailed during the day. The people of Queensland are very friendly, so I enjoyed making many new friends along the way to Thursday Island, which is up in the Torres Strait separating Australia from Papua New Guinea. Having had a lifetime's worth of short hops while sailing up the Great Barrier Reef, I decided to make a nonstop passage to Cocos Keeling, about 2,700 miles due west. Initially, the weather was a bit breezy, and I had to deal with quite a sea in the shallow Arafura Sea - but things got better through the Timor Sea. Each day until I had sailed past Ashmore Reef, I was buzzed by the Australia Customs plane. This is normal procedure during their patrols, and it was nice for a singlehander like me to have a chat each day - if only for a minute! After passing Ashmore Reef, the sea conditions improved, the wind was 10 to 15 knots from behind, and there were no squalls. Except for an eclipse of the moon and playful dolphins, it would have been an uneventful passage.

I arrived at Direction Island - one of the 27 coral islands that make up Cocos Keeling - on July 17. After clearing customs, I reanchored in the lagoon just before sundown. Gavin and Steve are the police officers in Cocos who clear boats in and out. In addition to being friendly and efficient, they were very helpful during my stay - which turned out to be a little longer than I had planned. For I had the misfortune of breaking the little toe on my only good foot the day after I arrived. I couldn't very well have broken a toe on the other foot, as my other leg is artificial. Fortunately, the anchorage in the lagoon formed by Direction Island is very well protected. The island itself is uninhabited - except for three chickens, some rabbits, and countless hermit crabs. But it does have a wonderful beach, a covered cabana with picnic tables, outhouses for men and women - and a telephone. It was an odd sensation to stand alone among the palm trees, looking at the beautiful lagoon so far from civilization - while talking to folks in California!

Cocos Keeling is a primary waypoint for cruising boats headed west. Some of the boats that came through during my stay included Mermaid from Seattle; Cisne Branco from Brazil; Affinity from South Africa; LeInegable from France; Global Surveyor from the United Kingdom; Rattle & Hum from Australia; Independence from the United States; Kokopelli from Australia; Nakiska from Canada; Ymemaru from Japan; Lu from Russia; Happyhour from Australia; Cape Song from South Africa; Joana from New Zealand; Max from Switzerland; Chantacleer from South Africa; Aquabat from Australia; and Delirious, Airborne and Pelican from the United States. I became friends with the crews of all these boats from afternoons shared in the shade of the cabana. Supplies and fuel were available on Home and West Islands. And if you found your way to Home Island, there was a free ferry between there and West Island. All in all, my stay was very enjoyable, and I hated to leave.

But leave I did, on September 6. After all the usual discussions about weather among the skippers, I decided to skip the Chagos Archipelago and head for Mauritius - which is about 2/3rds of the way to South Africa. I hoped that by waiting in Mauritius till late October, I'd find a good weather window for slipping over to Durban, South Africa. The first few days out of Cocos Keeling were perfect, then it got windy and bumpy for three days, with gusts to 30 knots and the associated seas. It was a bit of a wet ride, but good for making progress. It seemed that everyone who had left Cocos before me had gone through the same sort of conditions for the first several days, then enjoyed better weather. It was the same for me, as I had 15-20 knots from the southeast until the last morning before reaching Mauritius.

I approached Mauritius on the morning of September 24. After motoring around the north end of the island, I met up with my friends on Joana outside the entrance to Port Louis. They'd been having motor trouble for several days, so during one of the SSB nets, I'd offered to tow them in. After side-tying to them, Suntrekka's 62 hp Perkins diesel came in very handy. I always feel like a gooney bird coming in for a landing when approaching a dock after weeks at sea, so you can imagine the lump in my throat I had with 25 tons of steel tied to the side of my boat. The customs officers were very nice, and allowed us to spend the night on the floating pontoon. The next day I dragged Joana over to the marina, and was grateful to be free of the tow.

Mauritius was exciting and fun, and the locals - a mix of races and cultures from all over the region - were friendly and helpful. The exchange rate is good for the U.S. dollar, so food and services were reasonable. Rental cars are inexpensive and a great way to see the island. The Port Louis waterfront had been something of a dump, but it was recently given a face-lift and was full of new shops, cafes and restaurants. Lots of cruisers opt to go up to Grand Bae, but I stayed in the marina at Port Louis.

Here's a bit of a funny story. Since I have an artificial leg, I'm used to drawing stares from people. But as I visited the markets and walked - in shorts - the streets of Port Louis, I became aware of people whispering and pointing at me. It was so prevalent, it really started to get to me, so I started to wear long pants. But lo and behold, the whispering and pointing continued. The mystery was finally solved one afternoon when I was nursing an excellent Mauritian beer at one of the pubs. Some of the locals timidly approached me to ask if I was in politics - because they said I looked like the Vice Prime Minister of Mauritius! I later saw a picture of the fellow, and if not for his bigger nose, he would look quite a bit like me. The whispers continued, but at least I knew why.

On October 29, I departed on the approximately 1,700-mile passage to Durban, South Africa. My plan was to slide under Madagascar Island by about 150 miles, and hopefully reach Durban without getting hammered by the cold fronts that had badgered some of the boats that had left earlier in the month. Luck was with me! I had no wind over 25 knots, although while 90 miles south of Madagascar, a freak wave knocked Suntrekka on her beam and tore the canvas pulpit cover off the stern. Because of a forecast of bad weather at the end of the passage, I opted to go into Richards Bay rather than Durban. As most cruisers know, the weather off the coast of South Africa can be treacherous, so the SSB nets provide good forecasts as you approach the continent. I listened to Fred - call sign Peri Peri - on 8297mhz at 0600 UTC. I arrived in Richards Bay on November 11, and was safely tied up in the small craft harbor when a predicted front blew through - which gave a beating to several boats offshore that had to heave to.

I have now worked my way down the east coast of South Africa to Durban, East London, and now Port Elizabeth. Weather permitting, I hope to continue down to Mossel Bay and then to Cape Town, after which I will jump across the South Atlantic.

- richard 01/08/01

Fog City - Norseman 445
Ken & Gina Coleman
Swallowing The Anchor
(Walnut Creek)

After 5.5 years, we finished our trip around the world. We sailed west from San Francisco around the world to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We sold our boat there, and finished our circumnavigation by driving our new motorhome across the United States. We're now back in Walnut Creek, living the life of landlubbers.

We last wrote from the island of Malta, where we made great friends and enjoyed ourselves for a six month winter season. Then, with old friend Jerry Dunn along, we headed to southern Italy by way of Sicily and the Strait of Messina. Jerry left us at the quaint marina of Agropoli, wanting to travel on land after our last rough passage. We continued north, always finding excellent marinas that allowed us to leave our boat for inland excursions. For instance, we were able to spend a day in Pompeii, the ancient city that is still being uncovered from volcanic ash. Our next stop was the isle of Capri. We only stayed two days, however, during which we spent most of our time dodging tourists that flooded in daily from Naples and Sorrento. After continuing further up the coast, we did a land trip to Rome followed by a train trip to Germany to visit with cruising friends we'd met in Indonesia. On our way back to the boat, we enjoyed seeing Austria and Switzerland.

Once back on the boat, we zig-zagged up the Italian coast and sailed out to islands such as Ischia, Elba and Ventotene. As you travel further north in Italy, the cities get bigger. The coastline also gets greener and more mountainous - like California. We stopped in Genoa to visit friends in Milan, then visited the famous Riviera ports of Portofino, San Tropez, Monaco and Nice. They were all great places to visit, but we mostly had to motorsail as the wind was usually on our nose.

We then sailed across the sometimes ferocious Gulf of Lyon to Spain. Picking our window carefully, we had a smoother overnight passage to Cadaques, Spain. We looked forward to Spain, as Spanish is our only foreign language. But then we found we were in the part of Spain where they speak Catalan, a mixture of French and Spanish that we didn't recognize at all. We continued on to the fabulous metropolitan city of Barcelona, where we spent a month, while traveling north to San Sebastian on the Atlantic coast, into France, then through the Pyrenees back to Bacelona. We then sailed offshore to Spain's Balaeric Islands, the biggest of which is Mallorca. We spent more than a week at little Ibiza, and really enjoyed ourselves. We then returned to the Spanish mainland to visit the famous seaports of Alicante, Cartagena and Malaga. Our passage down the Spanish coast ended at Gibraltar, which is still held by the British. Leaving our beloved Fog City in Gibraltar, we rented a car to visit Seville and Lisbon, Portugal, and later Granada and the Alhambra. The Alhambra is a Moorish work of art that's a wonder to see.

After preparing our boat for an Atlantic crossing, we sailed 700 miles to the Canary Islands, where our friends Ed and Kathy Vail met us for the 3,000-mile passage to St. Lucia in the Caribbean. The passage was a little rolly, but we made it in 20 days. It was in St. Lucia, after the Atlantic crossing, that we both decided we would like to finish our sailing when we reached Florida. We sailed slowly north to the Caribbean, visiting Martinique, Dominca, Guadeloupe, Antigua, Nevis, St. Kitts and the British Virgins, where we were joined by two different sets of friends for the trips to the U.S. Virgins and Puerto Rico. We then sailed north to the Bahamas and Fort Lauderdale.

As planned, we put Fog City up for sale in Fort Lauderdale, and she sold within a month. It was sad to see our travelling companion go, as she'd kept us safe during 35,000 ocean miles, in rough seas and calm. We drove cross country visiting sites. We started slowly, but as we got closer to home, we felt the need to stop all our travelling and get back to our family and friends who we'd missed for so long. We're now back in our house in Walnut Creek, spending time with kids and grandchildren. We're also busier than ever, as I golf, ski and sail with the yacht club. We visited 46 countries during our voyage, nonetheless we feel there is still so much to see, so we're looking forward to a variety of trips.

- ken & gina 1/10/01

Cruise Notes:

Heading from Mexico to the South Pacific this spring? If so, you may want to consider attending the fourth annual Pacific Puddle Jump Party on March 3, co-hosted again this year by Latitude 38 and Marina Paradise. The free event will be held at Nuevo Vallarta's Marina Paradise, which will also provide a few free drinks and a little finger food. Latitude will be giving out one Puddle Jump burgee per boat. The purpose of the party is to help everyone who will be headed across to meet one another, to compare itineraries, and to set up radio skeds and a net. Andy Turpin, the assistant Grand Poobah of the Baja Ha-Ha, will be on hand to take pictures and jot down a few notes so everyone gets their five minutes of fame in Latitude. The event is only for folks who are jumping the puddle this spring.

"It doesn't seem possible that we departed Sausalito in May of '91," write Don and Lynn of the Martinez-based 54-foot ketch Eilean. "As the average circumnavigation usually takes three years, we should be on our third time around by now. We guess that we've just stopped to smell too many flowers. We're still in Mooloolaba, Australia, living the good life. We take walks on the beach, then we sand and varnish. We go to nice lunches and dinners, then we sand and paint. Last year we took a trip to New Caledonia to see the South Pacific Cultural Arts Festival, and spent two weeks in Noumea visiting friends we'd made when we stopped there in '96. We're now back at Mooloolaba polishing and waxing. We still enjoy Australia very much. Right now it's 85° and there's a pleasant breeze coming in off the Coral Sea. Everybody is in shorts and not very much clothing - and they wear even less on the beach! For Christmas we hosted three American yachtie couples. Other than the normal aches and pains, we're both in good health."

Headed for El Salvador and interested in places to visit? We recommend checking out the site for the acclaimed Barillas Marina Club. The site is both easy to use and full of helpful information. Check it out at:

With Sea of Cortez Sailing Week coming up April 27 through May 5 in La Paz and at Isla Partida, Pepe and Sue Maxwell, who will be organizing the event this year, want folks to know more about them and the event. "We cruised the west coast of Mexico from '93 to '98 aboard our Spindrift 43 Melissa. During that five-year-period, we enjoyed our amateur musician's status by playing at as many cruiser functions as possible. In July of '98, we left Melissa in La Paz to move to Camano Island, Washington, in order to take care of Pepe's aging mom. We ended up in a log house in the woods, with Melissa still in La Paz and for sale. If you're planning to be in the Sea of Cortez this spring, we highly recommend you attend Sailing Week, as there will be plenty of fun activities - from beach games, to boat and dinghy races, to general socializing - for everyone. If you've heard rumors that the event was sometimes a little too raucous for young children, we're here to tell you that those days are over. Today's Sailing Week is rated G. If anyone has any questions, please .

"We sailed out of San Francisco on November 5," report Buzz and Penny aboard the trimaran Mantra, "bound for Mexico and beyond. Our years of dedication toward this dream make it so much sweeter. We slowly worked our way down the California coastline, making 14 stops between San Francisco and L.A.'s Outer Harbor. We anchored at all but Morro Bay and Ventura. The most spectacular spot was Carmel's Stillwater Cove. The weather has been cold but calm - which allowed us to anchor under the sheer cliffs of Big Sur at Lopez Point and at the famous surf spot at Secate."

Please folks, make the Changes editor's life easier by always including your full name, boat name and type, and hailing port. Many, many thanks.

"We have been cruising from La Paz to Mazatlan," report Robert and Virginia Gleser of the Alameda-based Freeport 41 Harmony, "and had a great weather window that allowed us to enjoy some nice sailing. While here, a friend loaned us a copy of John Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez. It was first published on December 7, l941, so never got much attention. But thanks to Steinbeck's humor, observations, philosophizing, and 21st century environmental mindset, it's a great book - very much in the same league as Willa Cather's Silent Spring. It's a must read for cruisers coming this way."

The Log From The Sea Of Cortez really is a log - as opposed to a work of art - so there are long stretches that are on the dry side. Much of it is nonetheless interesting, which is why Latitude has been recommending it to Mexico cruisers for more than 20 years. Incidentally, we're sure you know that it was really Rachel Carson who wrote Silent Spring; Willa Cather authored such famous works as My Antonio and Death Comes For The Archbishop.

Dissecting pig hearts? "Warm greetings from the Winship family aboard the 33-foot catamaran Chewbacca down in Mexico, write Bruce, April and youngsters Quincy and Kendall. "We're having a wonderful time cruising the warm waters of mainland Mexico, and so far our favorite places have been Isla Isabella and Chacala. We are cruising slowly, which we like, and are currently in Nuevo Vallarta enjoying some time at the dock. The Ha-Ha was a great experience for us, as it gave us a departure date and a whole group of potential cruising friends who were 'in the same boat', so to speak. Many thanks to the Poobah and his dedicated staff for putting the Ha-Ha on. While not for the fainthearted, we agree it's an excellent way to start a cruising adventure. In addition, we've found that the camaraderie and group spirit of the cruising community is awesome, and the wealth of knowledge they share is incredible. For example, Jake of Sipapu - who is a retired veterinarian - gave a class in heart anatomy to kids from several boats. The kids dissected pig hearts right on the dock! In addition, the kids have learned much about wildlife in general from spending time in anchorages with Jake. We've also made friends with retired dentists, teachers, scientists, and so forth, so in addition to having fun, we're also having a learning experience. Like a lot of other folks, we'll be heading up into the Sea of Cortez this spring.

Forget Ambon, let's go to Bali! Thanks to violence in much of Indonesia last year, the popular Darwin to Ambon Race/Rally was cancelled. The Indonesian government doesn't want the event to wither, but there are still problems in Ambon. Their solution? To have the rally go from Darwin to Bali, as the latter has yet to suffer from violence. The new event will start on July 21, but be managed by the same team who used to run the Darwin to Ambon event. Over the years, many west coast cruisers have done this event and recommend it. For further information, visit:

Adios to the Mexican peso, the Costa Rican colon, the Nicaraguan cordoba oro, and the Guatemalan quetzel? It's not as farfetched as it might seem. Panama adopted the U.S. dollar as its official currency, although that was 100 years ago. But Ecuador did it just a year ago, and El Salvador did it at the beginning of this year - and it's already been an economic boon to both countries. Despite a long history of resentment of yanqui imperialism, Guatemala is already permitting employers to pay their employees in dollars, and Costa Rica and even Nicaragua are considering making the dollar their official currency. Most interesting of all is that Francisco Gil Diaz, Mexico's new Finance Minister, has long been a proponent of replacing the peso with the dollar in the land of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. There are two big disadvantages to being a citizen of a foreign country where the dollar is the official currency. First, a large part of your economic well being lies in the hands of Alan Greenspan - who primarily cares about American interests. Second, you have to accept the fact that your economy is a global wimp. Yet there's one huge benefit when the dollar is the official currency: the chances of your hard-earned money being devalued to that of a dorito is very slight.

Marina Paradise Harbormaster Dick Markie reports they've acquired the land to build 68 more berths. "We need them, too," he says, "as we've been at over 100% capacity since early December." Markie also reports that the Banderas Bay Regatta is also looking to have a breakout year, with more boats and fun than ever. The dates are March 23-26. Strictly a cruiser affair, it's for fun - and it's also free. Most folks also consider the awards ceremony on the 26th to be the 'cruiser formal' of the season. We'll be there with Profligate for the third year in a row, and suggest you try to make it, too.

"Just a short update from the custom 46 foot sloop Maude I. Jones," write Mary and Rob Messenger from Down Under. "We were in Sydney for Christmas and Boxing Day, and got to go out on a friend's yacht for the start of the Sydney to Hobart Race. It was fun. We're now in Eden, New South Wales, which will be our jumping off point for Tasmania. Remember how we talked about selling our boat after all these years of cruising? Well, our visit back to the States cured us of that idea! By the way, we enjoyed last year's article on Ty and Toni Knudsen of the Westsail 43 Sundowner. I boat-sat for them almost 20 years ago in Pago Pago when they left Sundowner for a visit back to Hawaii. I'm sure they don't know that Rob and I are the owners of Maude I. Jones now. Back then Rob owned Shannon Marie, and I was crewing aboard Endurance."

"We want to wish everyone a happy and safe 2002," writes Danny North. "Kaja and I are back on our catamaran Deva in Lankawi, Malaysia. She's in fine shape, considering the fact that we neglected her for over a year. We hauled her on New Year's Day and are busy doing lots of work in preparation of crossing the Indian Ocean this year. We plan to sail to Madagascar and East Africa via Western Sumatra and the Chagos Archipelago, then eventually sail around South Africa and up the South Atlantic." If we remember correctly, Danny - Lowell North's son - and Kaja's cat is 40 feet long.

"I just want to set the record straight about the letter of mine that was published last month about being in Mexico without the proper papers," writes Rick Mercer of San Rafael. "I didn't have a passport or a birth certificate, but I did have a valid California driver's license. The license was enough for the lady at Immigration in Puerto Vallarta." Thanks for correcting us.

"I thought I'd drop you a note to say that my Folkes 39 Nepenthe and I have cheated death once again," writes Tom Scott of San Mateo. "Our passage from Tonga to New Zealand was blessedly uneventful, though longer than anticipated due to light winds. But light wind sure beats the alternative conditions often encountered on that passage. Nepenthe is now lying in the Whangarei Town Basin, and yours truly is house sitting for some friends vacationing in Australia. I'm not accustomed to such luxury: hot water, laundry, showers - plus a lovely view of the countryside. Things are fine with me, and the New Zealand summer weather is lovely - although a lot cooler than the summer in the tropics. Plain sailing to all!" As many Latitude readers will remember, Tom did a long singlehanded circumnavigation with his simple steel boat, spent a year or so back in the Bay Area, and has since been cruising in Mexico and the South Pacific again for the last four or five years.

"In one of last month's 'Lectronic Latitudes, you wrote that you were mystified why more Americans don't cruise the Med," write Paul and Susan Zupan of the Sausalito-based 72-ft schooner Latitude. "Well, it's also a mystery to us. We have been here in the Balearic island of Minorca since October, when we sailed from Barcelona. We thought we would have moved on to Sardinia by Christmas, but we have been enjoying this island too much. At this time of year, the tourists have gone home and we share the island with the locals and a few cruisers. The weather has been mostly sunny and warm, with only two major storms. And it's true, we've only run into one American - and he's been living in Minorca for 20 years! We've met no American cruisers. However, we have met several really wonderful British cruisers, and quite a few locals. We have a busy social life just keeping up with the dinner invitations. The Balearics are a wonderful place to spend the winter."

If the thought of cruising around the Med appeals to anyone, they might consider an upcoming Mediterranean Odyssey - although it would be tough to make the May start unless your boat is already over there. Anyway, the event begins from Savona - which is near Genoa, Italy - in May and takes the fleet to France, Spain, the Balearic Islands, Malta, Tunisia, and finally Greece. The Mediterranean Odyssey is being organized by Alfredo Giacon of the Italian charter company CVA, and Ramon Giovani. Both had sailed in the Millennium Around the World Odyssey.

Berthing applications are now being accepted at the soon-to-open 200+ berth Ensenada Marina, which is part of a cruise ship-marina project. In addition, there will be a new yacht club, the Club Nautico de Ensenada, on site. Nico Sad, owner of the San Nicolas Resort Hotel, will be the first commodore, while Julio de A'Costa, a racer from Mexico City, will be the vice commodore.

The above news was forwarded to us by Jens Kolbowski, who we first met in Mexico in the late '70s when he was cruising his Cascade 42 Radiant. After swallowing the anchor at age 75, Jens moved to Chula Vista and discovered the Internet. He now runs the information-filled Baja Web, which you can visit at

"We've been cruising in Mexico for four years with Tasha, our attack cat," report P.J. and Geri Hilliard of the Mazatlan and San Diego-based Gulf 32 Pilothouse Tsing Tao."

"I want to give you a hearty 'thanks' and 'well-done' concerning last year's Ha-Ha," writes Rick Gio of the Freya 39 Gypsy Warrior. "As the Poobah, the Wanderer did a great job of keeping the fleet in touch with reality and each other. I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of whining, and give kudos to everyone in the fleet for their mature approach to the concept of a rally. Although there were a few gear breakdowns and/or malfunctions, everyone handled their situations without panic or finger-pointing. I thoroughly enjoyed myself as I got my racing 'fix', and my wife Maureen was finally exposed to offshore cruising - and had no complaints. Gypsy Warrior is currently safely berthed at Marina Ixtapa while we enjoy the holidays with friends and family in Sebastopol. By the time this gets published, we'll have returned to the boat and start heading north for the Sea of Cortez, which we'll explore before heading home in the spring. As is the case with several other folks in the last Ha-Ha, we'll be using this year's Ha-Ha as a feeder to Mexico and French Polynesia." Thanks for the kind words, Rick, we'll look forward to sailing south with you again in October. By the way, the folks at the Ha-Ha tell us that they've already received five or six requests for entry packs. This is not a good thing, as they remain in hibernation until May 1. So please, hold your horses.

"I just checked-out of Puerto Vallarta," writes John Anderton of the San Francisco-based Cabo Rico 38 Sanderling, "and discovered that the new fees at the Port Captain's office are doubled if the departure date on your crew list is on a weekend or a Mexican holiday. Of course, you must have a departure date within 48 hours of the time you visit the Port Captain, so don't check out on a Friday." Thanks for the tip. There was always an 'overtime' charge when checking out on weekends or Mexican holidays, but double the new $15 'port fee' is too much.

"It's been a non-sailing year for us and our 45-foot sloop Neeleen," report Ralph and Kathleen Neeley, formerly of Santa Cruz and Reno, but more recently of Lautoka, Fiji. "But we plan to sail to Tonga in May and cruise there for five months before returning to Fiji again."

This is a private note to Peter Miller of Morro Bay: We received your letter and normally would have published it, but given the health of the person involved, think it would have been in bad taste. We think you'll understand. If you don't, email us and we'll explain it.

"Last night I collapsed into my bunk, exhausted after a day of too many miles, too much salt spray, and far too much wind," writes Sigmund Baardsen of the San Diego-based Offshore 40 Mary T - which is currently wintering in Barcelona, Spain. "Yesterday, I saw big boats planing in huge waves and daring rescues in terrible conditions - and it all took place at the Barcelona Boat Show! 'Overwhelming' is the only word that fits, as there are a staggering 550 exhibitors showing 1,400 boats and other related products. It took six halls covering 550,000 square feet to hold them all - and there were more boats outside in the water. The ambience is entirely different from the razzle-dazzle, wheeling and dealing that characterizes U.S. boat shows. Here the atmosphere is quiet, reserved and dignified. Few of the people attending the show wore broken down TopSiders, and none wore aloha shirts. Blazers and ties predominated - and some of the outfits were very smart indeed. The yacht sales staff were in full battle dress of blue flannel and brass buttons, working the latest laptops among artificial tropical gardens with palm trees. They affirmed a couple of old observations: 1) The best sold boats tend to be the worst built, and 2) There's an inverse relationship between how highly a boat is polished and how thick her fiberglass is. Anyway, I visited the show with a shopping list and my credit card - and was surprised to learn that it was difficult - if not impossible - to buy most items on display! Having seen all the flash, I gratefully returned to our humble 30-year-old Cheoy Lee. By the way, I just received the November issue - and loved the piece by Racing Editor Rob Moore, who writes great stuff. Rob and I had sat together on the windward rail of the N/M 67 Pandemonium during the MEXORC in which she was sailed by Bill Twist and his crew from Blade Runner."

Sig, you're really dating how long you've been on your circumnavigation, as you and Rob did the MEXORC in '87, and Pando dropped her keel and disappeared coming back from the TransPac in '89. (We're still using lots of Pando kites on Profligate.) Many of our readers will also remember that you and your wife Mary were among those caught in the middle of the deadly Queen's Birthday Storm in the South Pacific in '94.

As for all you folks out cruising, here's to hoping that none of you get caught in a Queen's Birthday Storm. But don't forget to write. The best way is to . Gracias.

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