Changes in Latitudes

February, 2002

With reports this month from Altair on tropical storm Waka that hit Tonga; from Joss on Roatan; from Polly Brooks on Borneo, Bangkok, and wild train rides; from Pogo II on the result of a summer shakedown in the Lower Caribbean; from Tropicbird on Malaysia and Thailand; from Aeolus XC on the passage to the Galapagos; from Pelagian on cruising with pets in hot climates; from Kiana on starting a cruise on the East Coast; and Cruise Notes.

Altair - Cal 35
Paul Baker & Suzzette Connolly
Cyclone Waka In Tonga
(Seattle, Washington)

We're not sure what folks back home may have heard about Tropical Cyclone Waka, which hit the Vava'u Group of Tonga on New Year's Eve. The following is an edited report by Justine, the Kiwi woman who runs the Mermaid Restaurant on the waterfront at the popular yachting center in Neiafu.

"We survived Tropical Cyclone Waka, which flattened Vava'u with 80-knot winds and 10-ft waves in the harbor on New Year's Eve. We got hit hard for about four hours with the first part of the storm, then the eye passed over and the moon came out. It was weird. Then Waka hit from the other direction, which is when we lost our roof. It was pissing rain inside. How do you save the computer and other electrical stuff when they might as well be in a swimming pool?

Several barometers recorded 948 hpa - can you believe it? As Waka was leaving, the barometers rose 30 hpa in half an hour!

Some of us were lucky enough to have handheld VHFs during the storm, so we got to listen to the incredibly brave - or incredibly dumb - rescue efforts of a person who finally decided to leave his doomed boat and swim ashore. For a time, he thought his life was over. It was reassuring to hear Sandy give updates of the cyclone's movements as he spoke to Terri and Dave at the Royal Sunset in Nuku'alofa over the SSB. They provided us with much info on what was happening and what was to come. They were also our lifeline to the outside world - which I really appreciated as I lay under a shower curtain in a corner of the bed wondering what more the house could withstand. Thanks, guys!

Amazingly enough, Mermaid suffered little damage except for stuff in the freezer. The waves were so big at the restaurant that they tore down the big two-meter noticeboard at the back of the bar. It hasn't been seen since. About a dozen private launches sank, many yachts dragged their three-ton plus cyclone moorings across the harbor, and some dragged them even further. Four yachts went on the rocks, but all were retrievable.

One of The Mooring's catamarans ended up sitting in Anna's Cafe - as though she were ready for a cup of tea! She was badly holed, but nonetheless had ground the concrete dock into pieces. Two boats sank on either side of Mermaid, one of them having been smashed to pieces. All of Sunsail's boats were fine, although one dragged a mooring and is now stuck in the mud bottom of the harbor. Two other boats have evidence of being knocked over to the point that their masts were in the water - although Tikiti Boo - which tends to flip in gusts over 70 knots - survived just fine. She had been secured with tires for storm drogues and weighted down with batteries.

We had a day to prepare for the approach of the cyclone, which was good - but tiring. I was exhausted, wet, and cold to the bone by the time we finished preparations. It was still windy the day after the cyclone, and everyone wandered around in a daze, shocked at the damage and destruction. There were so many mangos laying around that it looked as though it had rained mangos! There wasn't a scrap of vegetation left whole, however, as every leaf had been shredded down to the size of a dime and plastered onto houses, cars, and walls.

The day after Waka, the guys started retrieving boats. It was a godsend of a day, as there was bright sunshine and the highest tide of the year!

The best sound I heard was that of the Kiwi Air Force Orion flying overhead. I was just about in tears while mopping out the house for the second day in a row trying to get everything dry, when I looked up through the hole in the roof to see the Orion fly over. Then I could hear them over the VHF. It made me proud to be a Kiwi.

The Tongans are amazingly resilient. Three out of every four houses lost their roofs and their crops have been destroyed on a large and long term scale - yet they keep on smiling while they clean up. The Tongan Power Board is actually working round the clock to restore power - a minor miracle in itself!

Anyway, we all survived and are picking up the pieces. Thanks to everyone who thought of us and those who managed to get an email to us before the cyclone hit. We're still smiling."

Justine's report was scary reading for us, as we'd only left Vava'u at the beginning of November. We then sailed down to Nukua'lofa, Tonga, then made the long trip to New Zealand's Bay of Islands. The passage from the South Pacific to New Zealand is often a very difficult one, but we had a great trip of only eight days. We had light winds in the beginning, but rocketed along for the next five days thanks to 20 to 25 knot winds from aft. We arrived in the Bay of Islands on a pleasant, sunny afternoon.

- paul & suzette 1/15/02

Joss - Gazelle 42
Anna Berg & Ian Gunn
(Seattle, Washington)

We've covered a few thousand miles aboard our junk-rigged schooner since we left San Diego in January of 1997. A couple of years were spent in Mexico, with summers in the Sea of Cortez. We then headed down the Central American coast and transited the Panama Canal in September of 1999. We continued north from the San Blas Islands of Panama in the spring of 2001, and made brief but fantastic stops at the Colombian-owned islands of San Andres and Providencia before heading into the northwest Caribbean.

At various times during our trip, we've had to lay Joss up so we could return home for work or visits. Many of the places have been covered in Latitude, but we hadn't heard much about the Bay Islands of Honduras. We had been asking around on the radio nets for a safe place to spend the 2001 hurricane season, and Dave of Victoria - who provides weather on the Northwest Caribbean Net (8188.0 at 1400Z) - suggested Roatan as an alternative to the recently troubled Rio Dulce of Guatemala. Luckily, the Bay Islands are just within the 'legal zone' - west of 85°W - for our boat insurance.

We arrived in the Bay Islands in early June, and started with a one-month stay at Guanaja, the easternmost island. The island is beautiful and has fabulous diving, but had too many no-see-ums for our blood.

Roatan, which is just a few miles further west, has good anchorages with great reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving. The anchorages ranged from the relatively private Port Royal to the more touristy West End. The island has a decent transportation system of buses and taxis - including going colectivo, to double or triple up, for cheaper fares - and the stores are well-stocked. After cruising in Mexico, the provisions seemed expensive - but when compared to The Bahamas, they were extremely reasonable.

More locals speak English in the Bay Islands than anywhere else in Honduras, but knowing Spanish still helps. Checking in and out procedures are about US$40 each way - although we heard that most of the fees were being done away with for 2002 - and the officials are decent and polite. There is a good community of cruisers, including a few who have swallowed the hook and now live ashore here. There is lots of good cruising in the area. It's normally downwind to Utila, Cayos Cochinos, and the Honduran mainland. If you make a straight shot, it's just an overnight passage to the Rio Dulce and the reefs of Belize.

We found Roatan to be a great place for guests to visit us, especially if we set them up at West End and West Bay, which have lovely white sand beaches. Unfortunately, international travel isn't cheap, with U.S. airfares being unreasonably high. Domestic travel is more reasonable for trips to San Pedro Sula for a visit to the Mayan ruins of Copan.

There are some drawbacks to Roatan. 'Eyeball navigation' is recommended, as the charts and cruising guides can be inaccurate, and the channel markers are rudimentary. The entrance to French Harbour/Fantasy Island is a fine example. When visiting for the first time, it's best to enter/leave while the sun is overhead. Dave of Victoria is working on a CD-based cruising guide for Roatan, which should help.

Although Roatan has many banks, there is only one ATM in the Bay Islands. It's at Coxen Hole, and only works sporadically. Air shipments of parts or mail are a challenge, as things can get held up in customs on the mainland. We used FedEx successfully one time - although FedEx headquarters in the U.S. didn't seem to know they had an office here. There have also been thefts in the anchorages, including the taking of outboards and VHF radios. We raise our dinghy each night and lock our boat, and have never had a problem.

When we had to leave our boat, we decided to put her at Oak Ridge Marina. It has six slips located in front of the property and house owned by Sandy Byrd, and is on the cay just opposite the quaint and colorful town of Oak Ridge. At $120/month for storage - $150/month if you stay onboard - it was a good deal, especially knowing that four boats rode out hurricane Mitch here without any damage. Power, water, laundry, cold showers and Internet are available. There's also a boathouse with a covered upstairs area that's perfect for projects that require a bit of space. Just across the water is BJ's Backyard - for a taste of island eating and a cold beer - as well as Bodden's grocery store and more. If you need to visit French Harbour or Coxen Hole, you can get a taxi or, better yet, ride the bus with the locals to get a taste of the island. On the way, you'll pass through Punta Gorda, the Garifuna village. It's only a short dinghy ride from Oak Ridge Marina to Jonesville Bight, site of the Hole in the Wall restaurant/bar, which serves good food and has a Sunday buffet. The folks at Oak Ridge can be reached .

We've also left our boat for a week at the Roatan Dive & YC, formerly the French Harbour YC. Their prices are similar to Oak Ridge Marina, but they have easier access to groceries and buses. The Club has a nice restaurant, hotel rooms, swimming pool, a small dive operation, Internet access, cold showers down by the marina, and very helpful management. When the airline "misplaced" our baggage - including our SSB radio! - manager Ron Reed made daily calls to Coxen Hole and San Pedro Sula, and trips to the airport, to track it down. The whole place was cleaned and painted when new owners took over about a year ago. It also has good security and a dinghy dock for those anchored out in French Harbour. The Roatan Dive & YC can be reached or visited at

While we didn't try Brick Bay Marina, which is located further 'down island' and nearer Coxen Hole, other cruisers who did were quite satisfied. You can reach the marina at (504) 445-1127. Across on the mainland at La Ceiba is the Lagoon Marina, which has gotten good reviews. They made be contacted (or check out the Web site at's also a haulout facility at La Ceiba that's been recommended.

From the Bay Islands, we headed north for Florida. We stopped at Isla Mujeres, Mexico, for Christmas and to wait for a break in the winter Northers. Joss is now at Paradise YC in Fort Meyers, where her four-foot draft is finally paying off. Quite a difference from the Pacific!

- anna & ian

Polly Brooks - Islander 37
Kirk & Cath McGeorge
Borneo & Bangkok

If you're looking for a place to leave your boat for a few days near Kota Kinabalu - the capital of the state of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo - we recommend the bay at Gayana Resort. It's located on Palau Gaya, a national park and game reserve just a few miles off the coast. The resort maintains a dozen deep water moorings and offers complete use of their resort facilities and ferry service into town - for just $2 a day. It's safe to leave the boat for a few days while heading off to other adventures - which is exactly what we did when we flew to Bangkok, Thailand - aka the Big Chili.

We checked into the Grace Hotel, the same place I had stayed during my last visit to Bangkok a quarter century ago - when I arrived with the airwing aboard the USS Kitty Hawk. Although it had changed a lot, after a few drinks and smokes it turned out to be exactly as I remembered. Bangkok is a giant city that offers the best and worst of everything in Asia, and caters to every human whim. The moment we stepped outside our hotel, every sense was assaulted by colorful hustlers and people from every race and walk of life, all offering or searching for the greatest bargains.

Whatever wish, need or fantasy you might have, it can be fulfilled in Bangkok - as long as you're willing to go with the flow and pay the price. For instance, when we ducked into a place to get out of the nightly monsoon rains, we soon found ourselves smoking from a large hookah with a bunch of Arab party animals. As our group danced to desert music into the wee hours of the morning, I dined on handfuls of roasted grasshopper and beetles, squid on sticks, mangosteens, prawns, tom yam soup, and Thai salads. Awesome food! There was even an elephant rocking to the beat as we ate.

We also took a river cruise through the city and into the barrios and canals of the Chaophraya River, visited street markets, temples, and other attractions - including the famous entertainment on Pat Pong Road. We stayed a week and had a grand time. But a week of Bangkok was all that our senses, wallets and digestive systems could withstand.

Our trip back to Borneo at 35,000 feet was interesting. The flight took us over the broken heart and killing fields of Cambodia and Viet Nam - including Phnom Penh, the Mekong River and old Saigon. Even from a great altitude, the pockmarked landscape, overgrown airstrips, and long abandoned fire-bases are still clearly visible. After crossing the South China Sea, we had a layover in the Kingdom of Brunei before finally landing at Kota Kinabalu. We caught the 1800 ferry back to Pulau Gaya, and were exhausted and happily back aboard Polly Brooks just in time for sunset.

Our next big adventure was a great train ride which took us 100 miles down the coast from Kota Kinabalu and up into the jungle rivers to the end of the North Borneo Railroad line. The railroad was built over a century ago in an attempt to tame the wild northern jungles and make the British rubber and copra plantations profitable. It was a huge undertaking. We had a good look around the old station and maintenance yard, where we discovered three ancient Vulcan steam locomotives. One of the locomotives and several classic coaches had recently been refurbished and put back into passenger service as a tourist attraction. We considered paying 320 ringgits for the nostalgic 24-mile ride, but settled on the rusty, dusty economy/cargo train which took us nearly four times the distance but cost only 15 ringgits!

Our train, with us in a most decrepit coach, pulled out of the station 10 minutes ahead of the polished steam train. With a lurch we were off, through flooded rice fields and steamy jungle, ultimately bound for the village of Tenom. While between stations 30 minutes later, our train came to a slow halt - and then began rolling backwards! Luckily, we soon rolled to a flat spot and came to a stop. The crew ran around looking under the carriages, confirming our suspicion that the brakes had failed. There we sat, motionless in the middle of a flooded rice field, the only sounds being the murmur of the passengers and the birds chasing insects.

Before long, we heard the shrill sound of a steam whistle and the distinct ca-chugging of the old Vulcan somewhere down the tracks behind us. By and by, it rounded the bend and slowed to a stop. After belching a hearty breath of white steam, it stood there huffing and puffing, fire venting out its great nostril, hot with impatience. Our broken diesel train was blocking the tracks. After a bunch of finger-pointing and arm-waving by the crews, it was decided that the only thing to do was to have the old steam engine push us to the next rail yard where we could be taken off onto a siderail for repairs. And this was done.

Within two hours, we had another diesel engine and were again clattering down the tracks. Our next stop was the provincial town of Beaufort, which is near the border of Sabah and Brunei. Our train was extended by several more coaches here, as well as a flatcar, and a livestock car containing a pair of crusty water buffalo. They put the beasts directly behind the engine, which wasn't such a good idea, because as soon as we got rolling the entire train smelled like a water buffalo swamp.

But what a ride, as we soon found ourselves climbing a canyon alongside the raging and muddy Padas River, winding our way into the dark jungle of northern Borneo. The train was now packed to standing room only with sweaty bodies, and the tropical heat and humidity only enhanced the attacks on our senses. I soon found comfort from the heat and stench by sitting on a sack of rice outside on a flatcar among a colorful and entertaining group of characters.

The assembly was composed of a dozen fellows from different villages chatting in a variety of languages. One guy was playing a guitar accompanied by another with a bamboo flute. Most spoke simple Bahasa Malay. From my previous years living in Bali, I realized that I was beginning to understand parts of the jokes and stories. They were quite surprised when I finally piped into the conversation, and before long we were all laughing and drinking warm beers - while sitting outside in the rain and passing spectacular scenery around each bend. The foliage was thick enough to form canopies, and the bright green jungle formed tunnels through which the train passed.

Eventually, we arrived at our destination of Tenom. We were bruised, dirty, hungry - and five hours late. We checked into a Chinese hotel whose name I cannot recall or recommend, and after a cool shower and short rest, set out to find a good place to eat. We discovered an Indian Islamic restaurant, and enjoyed a grand feast - while watching The Matrix play on big screens mounted on every wall. All this deep in the heart of Borneo.

We attempted to hire a taxi the following morning to act as a tour guide at points of interest in the national park on our way back to Kota Kinabalu, but none of the drivers were interested. While haggling over the idea, we missed the only first class train out of town. We resigned ourselves to sitting in the shade under a giant tree and watching the local Sunday football games in the park across from the station while waiting for the noon cargo train. When we finally boarded the train for the trip down the mountain, it was nearly empty, and we were able to score choice seats.

When we reached Beaufort, we discovered that the first class train we missed had been derailed! In fact, it was lying on its side just outside of town, and many people had been hurt. At that point we decided that we'd had enough of romantic train adventures, and left the station looking to catch a bus for the remainder of the trip. Because of its proximity to the river, Beaufort is an old logging town with narrow streets lined with funky, two-story wooden buildings, and wooden sidewalks. It looks much like an western ghost town in the U.S. - except that it's alive with Chinese shops, restaurants, and wealthy timber barons.

We settled into an old restaurant for a cold beer and were quickly joined by Ibraham, the town idiot. He had a great, toothless smile and a lunatic's laugh. The proprietor and every passerby indicated to us that he was gila gila, and shook their heads in pity. But he certainly seemed to enjoy himself while listening to us talk, and at times would indulge us with his thoughts on our subject of discussion - in perfect English. Then he'd go back to ranting and giggling to himself in Mandarin, Malay and other languages.

During a break in my conversation with Cath, our idiot friend looked at Cath and said, "Excuse me, but may I have cigarette?!" Everyone said he was the village idiot, but I had a feeling that the man was quite happy, quite intelligent and quite mad! When I asked how many languages he spoke, he replied, "English, Chinese, German, Malay, Japanese, Bahasa Indonesian, and Tagolog!" He giggled after mentioning each language, and at the end broke into a lunatic's laughing rage.

When we finally caught the bus, it was much more comfortable than the train - cushy seats, air-conditioning, and kung-fu movies! Just outside of town, we slowed and passed the carnage of the train we had missed. The following day, we learned that two children had been killed and scores hospitalized. The same train derailed again a week later.

It's easy to find reasons to linger in nice places, so we decided to stick around Kota Kinabalu for one more week in order to attend the Sabah Harvest Festival. It was a terrific two-day pageant and competition, with colorful costumes, music, games, and food. It takes place every year around the end of May.

We stayed on our mooring at the Gayana Resort a total of 36 days and made some great new friends, learned a few new tricks, explored the pristine jungles, had tons of fun, and made a new awning for Polly Brooks. Then we departed for Pulau and Labuan. This was in June of last year.

- kirk & cath 10/01

Pogo II - CSY 44
Craig Owings & Sarah Terry
Six Month Summer Shakedown
(Pedro Miguel Boat Club, Panama)

Sarah and I returned to Panama and the old Pedro Miguel Boat Club after a six-month summer shakedown of Pogo II in the lower Caribbean. The boat performed well and the punch list of things to fix is small, so we should have her ready for a jump off to the Galapagos and Ecuador around March of this year.

During a November visit back to the States to see family and friends, we stopped by the Fort Lauderdale and St. Pete boat shows. We saw all kinds of great things to make life more interesting and comfortable on a boat. One of the best gizmos was a 15-inch LCD computer monitor by Samsung, complete with a built-in TV receiver and all the extra input jacks. The light flat panel unit has stereo speakers built-in, making it ideal for the bulkhead of a boat. All you have to do is add a DVD player and the evening is ready for a great social event. It costs a miserly $599 with a factory rebate of $50 at Best Buy. They also make a 17-inch version, but we couldn't find one.

The holiday season here at the Pedro Miguel has been one party after another, with the club chock-a-block with boats. Yes, the Pedro Miguel is still going strong, and we don't see any reason why it will not continue to do so in the future. The old Lima crane is still huffing and chuffing the boats in and out of the water with hardly a complaint. This year's Christmas dinner at the club featured all of the traditional trimmings - and some fine barbequed kids. I'm not speaking of errant children - although sometimes the thought is tempting - but rather of a couple of young goats. A vote of the visitors at the last potluck overwhelmingly chose goat to turkey, although some suggestions were made for the club's geese.

Sarah continues to get younger with each day of retirement after finishing her career with the Panama Canal. I don't even look back, as my retired life is busier than when I was employed.

- craig & sarah 1/15/02

Tropicbird - Wilderness 40
Leslie King
Langkawi, Malaysia
(Santa Fe, New Mexico)

Having just spent two weeks in northern Thailand, a week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and now being in Langkawi, Malaysia, I can report that I've always felt perfectly safe.

The stretch from Langkawi to Phuket, Thailand, is a wonderful place to base a yacht. As anyone can see by paging through a copy of Sail Thailand, the area has lots of lovely islands. It's also economical, as berthing or hardstand at Rebak Resort - a nice four-ish star hotel in Langkawi - is less than $6/foot/month. I've forgotten the rates at Boat Lagoon and Yacht Haven, but they are comparable. No matter where you dine out, the food is delicious and inexpensive. Airfares to the States are cheap at about $600 per roundtrip, with up to one year to return. The area admittedly doesn't have the consistent winds of the Caribbean, but it's more reliable than in Mexico.

For those not familiar with this part of the world, Malaysia and Thailand are very different - which is part of the attraction of both. Malaysia is much more prosperous, doesn't have corruption, allows yachts to stay indefinitely, and permits yacht gear to come into Langkawi duty-free. Although Malaysia is mostly Muslim, it's proudly multi-cultural and multiracial. It's not a sexually charged country, and the women dress and behave modestly. The food is delicious.

Thailand, on the other hand, is poor. When it comes to corruption, it makes Mexico look like Finland. Yachts can only stay in the country 180 days, and imported yacht gear is subject to steep duties. Thais - especially the ethnic Thai Buddhists - divide the world into Thais, who are always favored, and farangs, as foreigners are called. Thailand is known for its sex tourism, but the domestic prostitution is an even larger industry. Philandering, often commercially, is a national pastime. Thai women are beautiful and dress to show it. The food is also delicious.

The differences certainly favor Malaysia when it comes to economic development. Boeing, for example, is building a plant to make part of all its aircraft wings in northern Malaysia. Wave Master is opening a superyacht center in Langkawi, with a 500-ton Travelift and berthing for 40 yachts of 225 feet. Sunsail just added 14 boats to its fleet at the Langkawi YC base. Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, has enough post-modern buildings to be a 'must visit' city for students of architecture.

It's unclear how this will all play out over the years, but I could easily leave Tropicbird here. By the way, I've had her on the hard in Langkawi since this time last year. I had planned to return here for land and sea travelling earlier last year, but my friend Patti - who had sailed up the east coast of Oz and to here with me - was afraid to come back. Both she and her mother had watched too much CNN. So I've been travelling on land by myself. I'll return next year for some local cruising before heading west. At last rumor, about 50 boats currently in the area were going to head to and up the Red Sea - despite the current tensions.

- leslie 12/15/01

Aeolus XC - N/A
Malcolm & Jackie Holt
El Salvador To The Galapagos

The three of us - Malc, Jackie and King Neptune - shared part of a bottle of good rum at six minutes past midnight on November 22, the exact moment that we crossed the equator. We don't make a habit of drinking on passages, it's just that you don't let as auspicious an occasion as a first crossing of the equator go unrecognized. Nor do you deny Neptune his tot.

Minutes earlier I - Malc - watched the first quarter moon set over the western horizon. As bright as it had been in the night sky, it turned into a brilliant orange smile - like a toothless Jack o' Lantern - as it hovered low over the sea. Then it slid from view, leaving me with the distinct feeling that it was Mother Nature's way of welcoming us to the threshold of the southern hemisphere. Overhead were millions of stars in a clear sky, and directly ahead lay the Southern Cross, pointing the way. Such are the benefits of travel in a small boat. You don't get such moments aboard a 747!

Our passage to the Galapagos from El Salvador - via Costa Rica's Cocos Island - took two weeks and two days. That included the four days we stayed at Cocos. Nearly all our sailing was beating hard into a headwind. It was extremely tough going - and tough on Aeolus XC, too. Although it's an 800-mile passage on the rhumbline, we had to sail almost 1,200 miles to get there.

But on the final day of our passage, our appetite for this nature reserve was whetted by the sight of giant turtles and huge manta rays. Both the turtles and rays seemed to be about 10 feet across. And the birds were truly amazing, completely different from the other seabirds we'd grown accustomed to.

We arrived at Academy Bay on Santa Cruz Island in the afternoon, and soon were laying on bow and stern anchors to keep our bow pointed into the swells that rolled into the harbor. The water in the anchorage is almost crystal clear except for some brilliant blue coloring. The island landscape we can see from our boat looks surreal: dry, cactus-strewn, and sage colored.

Just so nobody in the States gets too envious about our situation, be advised that although the Galapagos are located in the tropical zone, it sure doesn't feel like it. It's generally cloudy with frequent showers and heavy downpours, but most of all it's surprisingly cool! As I write this, it's 70° - which after Mexico and Central America is quite chilly. And thanks to the effects of the Humboldt Current that sweeps up the west coast of South America from the Antarctic Sea, the water is also cool.

We've now been here a week. After catching up on our rest, we've been busy fixing things - a big part of the cruising life - and trying to get a fix on the Galapagos. What an amazing place! Now that we're here, we're finally beginning to appreciate the impact that Charles Darwin's observations and thesis made on modern science. We sit and look at the same creatures - especially the finches - and try to understand more about ourselves as a species. The Galapagos has a profound impact on visitors, and we plan to return to the Charles Darwin Research Center another time before we leave.

- malcolm & jackie 12/05/01

Pelagian - Hans Christian 38T
Sharon Cochran Jensen, D.V.M.
Cruising With Pets In Hot Climes
(Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, WA)

During the last winter cruising season, Pelagian was in Mexican waters for many months, finally leaving when the temperature rose above 100°. We observed that our wonderful Third Mate, Leif, a healthy neutered male cat who had not cruised in such hot environments, struggled to remain adequately hydrated during the most extreme heat. As a veterinarian, at times I tend to be overly concerned about my pet's health, but in this instance I noted concrete observations which were alarming. After helping Leif get a paw back up toward appropriate hydration, I decided to write this short article to help other cruisers in hot climes with pets.

For our own physiologic well-being, we consume a lot of Gatorade - in addition to plain water - when the temperatures rise above 90°. This helps replace electrolyte loss due to copious sweating. For pets, plain water is adequate - if they do not become dehydrated. The purpose of this article is to aid the pet owner in preventing dehydration by practicing careful monitoring of the animal and some basic preventative measures. Once dehydration has taken place, the management of fluid balance becomes more complicated.

A few facts about fluid balance and dog/cat physiology:

Cats and dogs are not capable of sweating as much as humans, and therefore must pant to lose heat. Panting cools the animal but also results in a large loss of moisture - which leads to dehydration unless the fluid is replaced. Dogs are more likely to overheat than cats, but both merit careful observation in hot weather.

In general, 60% of body weight is water; two-thirds of it is within the cells and the rest is extracellular - meaning in the veins, lymphatic and other compartments. When the extracellular region suffers fluid loss, dehydration becomes apparent to the trained observer. Signs to look for include: dry mucous membranes (sticky mouth, dry tongue, dry eyes); sunken eyes (the third eyelid present in the inside or rostral corner of the eye may be apparent); and/or loss of skin turgor.

Try this test to learn about skin turgor: pinch a small piece of skin just above your wrist and let it go. It will snap back in place quickly. Dehydration results in a loss of elasticity, so skin will be slow to snap back into place. If your pet is a friendly sort, try this test by gently pinching a bit of skin just tailward from the shoulder blades. The skin will pull back in place readily - assuming your pet is not a CharPei or other exuberantly fleshed breed and assuming that your pet is well hydrated. When dehydrated, this elasticity of the skin is noticeably diminished due to loss of tissue water.

When your pet shows normal skin turgor and the eyes are not sunken but the mucous membranes seem a bit dry, your furry friend is already estimated to be 4 to 5% dehydrated. At this stage of the game, you can safely get your pet rehydrated at home or on the boat, but allowing the problem to progress further will require the need for medical intervention. At 8 -10% dehydration and above, your pet will show dehydration in all of the ways listed above. He/she will also have a weak, rapid pulse. Dogs average a pulse of 70 - 120 beats per minute, while cats are 120 - 140 bpm. Monitoring rectal temperature is also helpful. Dogs average 102° (38.9C) and cats 101.5° (38.6C).

Urine output is another very useful tool for evaluating the hydration of a cat who uses a litter box with clumping type litter. Dogs, of course, are difficult to evaluate except along the most basic observations of frequency and volume. Dogs produce 20 - 100 ml of urine per kilogram of body weight a day. Cats should have a urine output of 10 -20 ml per kilogram of body weight per day. For example, our sea cat Leif weighs approximately 14 pounds or about 6.4 kilograms - and therefore should make 64 to 128 ml of urine per day. Using the rough estimate that a cup of wetted clumping litter represents 150 ml of urine output, Leif should produce a little less than 1/2 cup to a little less than 7/8 cup wetted, clumping litter. Of course, one will typically eyeball the amount and factor this information in with how the pet appears and is behaving.

How can this information be used to easily evaluate your cruising pet?

Math class is over now, so please pay attention once again. I first noticed that our pet was struggling to keep up with his water needs when he became more lethargic than usual, showed decreased appetite, and seemed to drink less water per day. When I paid attention to the daily urine volume, I noted that it seemed less than usual. Without doing the math, I empirically began giving him water by mouth with a syringe - about 10 to 20 ml every two to three hours over the course of one day. His attitude changed favorably after just one day of this, his urine output increased, and we were out of the woods.

When under heat stress, pets need an average of 60 - 80 ml/kg body weight of fluid per day. For Leif, that's about 400 ml per day. When heat conditions become extreme, I advise that you measure the volume of water you place in your pet's dish every morning. If possible, measure the amount left at noon, at night, and again in the morning to get a reasonable assessment of what is consumed as opposed to a combination of what's consumed and what evaporates.

Along with evaluation of behavior, a crude evaluation of urine output and careful monitoring of the eyes, mucous membranes and skin turgor, you should have a reasonably accurate idea of how your pet is faring during hot weather. If you notice any deviation from normal, simply augment what your pet is drinking by providing an additional flavored beverage - beef, chicken or fish broth is good - and/or force fluid via syringe for a cat or small dog or, perhaps a turkey baster for a large dog.

The best defense is a good offense. Provide clean, fresh drinking water at all times. Don't forget to scrub out the bowl whenever fresh water goes into the bowl. Your pet needs and deserves clean, potable water as much as every other member of the crew. Finally, don't forget that water produced by a deionizer is very depleted of electrolytes. If your pet is not eating adequately and only drinking water, please remember to add a small amount of salt to the water or tempt it to eat with some treat or another to avoid electrolyte depletion.

On a sad note, I warned one cruiser in Mexico about the potential for dehydration, and later learned that their pet suffered and almost died from this problem while sailing the Sea of Cortez. They were only able to save their cat's life by locating a veterinarian and obtaining prompt administration of intravenous fluid.

- sharon

Kiana - Wauquiez 45
Paul & Lynn Elliott
Seru Boca Marina, Curaçao
(Anacortes, WA)

We bought our boat on the East Coast, so rather than trucking her back to the West Coast to begin cruising, we started back there. We spent five months in the Bahamas in '99-'00, during which time we learned that there's not enough water there for a boat that draws eight feet. We later returned to Annapolis to have the rig checked and have some modifications made before taking off for more extended cruising. Paul - along with a hired captain and one crew - finally left Annapolis on December 1. They spent three days waiting for good weather in Virginia, then made the trip to the British Virgins in 12 days. Once they got to the BVIs, Lynn replaced the delivery crew.

We spent the next eight months sailing 'down island' to the Grenadines, then across to Venezuela's offshore islands - including four weeks among the Los Roques and Los Aves. We loved the French Islands of the Eastern Caribbean, but didn't like the former English islands as much because the 'boat-boys' quickly became so tiresome. We think these boys have been spoiled by the charterboat crews to the extent that cruisers can't afford what they ask for their services. Despite our trying to be nice, they were very aggressive. The snorkeling in the Venezuelan islands - as well as at Bonaire and Curaçao - was wonderful.

We left the boat for the summer at a secure marina in Curaçao, and will return to her for this winter season. After beating our way back to Grenada, we'll sail down to Trinidad for Carnival. Our longer term plan is to spend another two seasons in the Trinidad-Venezuela area - which is much less expensive than the rest of the Eastern Caribbean - before heading to the Panama Canal and then up the West Coast of Mexico. By the way, is there a guide for sailing up the West Coast from the Canal? We realize this is the wrong way and we are not sure we have the experience for the Pacific yet. But we want to do the West Coast anyhow.

- paul & lynn 12/01

Paul & Lynn - There are three ways to get from Panama to California: 1) By way of Hawaii. 2) The clipper ship route, which means you sail about halfway to Hawaii before flopping back to lay California. And, 3) Coastal sailing along Central America and Mexico to California. Check out Robert Case's report, as he made this passage to finish up his circumnavigation.

By the way, if you've sailed from the Northeast to the Bahamas and back, then to and through the Eastern Caribbean, and finally spent two more years in the Caribbean, it seems to us you'd have all the experience necessary for the Pacific. Unless, of course, you're thinking of messing around in the Roaring Forties.

Cruise Notes:

One of the best things about being a yachting journalist is that no matter what port you're in, you're apt to bump into an old friend. For example, while in St. Barts over the holidays, we were standing in front of Cheeseburgers in Paradise, when a guy walked by who looked a lot like Dale Goff. In the '80s, Dale was a young guy spending all his money restoring and maintaining the schooner Landfall on San Francisco Bay. As we remember, Dale's dad thought it was something of a waste of time. It had been years since we'd seen Dale, so we weren't sure if the guy walking by Cheeseburgers was really him. But it was. It turns out that Goff had just become the skipper of a boat cruising the Caribbean - a near new 95-ft S&S named Valkyrie. So Dale's not only doing something he loves, but he's obviously very successful at it. He says "hello" to all his friends back in Sausalito. A day or two later while walking around Gustavia, we bumped into Edda Rottscheidt, who had done the 1999 Ha-Ha aboard the Lagoon 37 Adia. Edda has been cruising the Caribbean aboard a Tayana 52 for the last few months with a guy she met through a crew list. Alas, she's about to return to San Francisco to resume her career.

"Talk about tight weather windows!" writes Larry Jacobson of the San Francisco-based Stevens 50 cutter Julia. "We'd already missed the usual fall weather window, so storm front after front rolled across Northern California and kept us from starting our cruise. So my crew - Ken Smith, Patrik Hendrickson, Bill Claypool, Rajat Dutta, and Bob Beth - started waiting for just a 48-hour window to get south of Conception without getting hammered. We finally got one on December 7, so we raced beneath the Gate and headed south before the next front that was moving in fast. We made it around Pt. Conception - where it was calm as could be - and into Santa Barbara in just 48 hours, happy to have made it around California's kneecap! We're currently in San Diego trying to reduce the number of projects that need to be completed. But the crew wants warm, so warm it shall be - Wednesday we head south to Cabo. After dawdling on the Mexican mainland, we'll take the first opportunity to cross the pond to the Marquesas. Our plan is to be in Auckland by November of next year, and we hope to stay through the America's Cup. After that we'll continue west, although which way will depend on the political situation in the Middle East. We've been told that if we sail west long enough, we'll eventually sail right back under the fabulous Golden Gate!"

Nobody asked us, but if you're going to be sailing south to Southern California and Mexico, we at Latitude recommend that you get south of Conception by the middle of October, and well south of San Diego by the first week in November. If you do, you'll almost certainly have an endless summer and miss winter altogether. If you delay, however, you should expect some very chilly temperatures and having to wade through southerly fronts. In fact, if you have an open schedule, we suggest that you head south to Southern California in early September, so you'll have enough time to fully enjoy the great cruising at the Channel Islands, Catalina, and along the Southern California coast during the two best months of the year - September and October.

"We're in Panama with our Canal transit coming up next week," report Doug and Judy Decker of the Milwaukee-based Beneteau 37 Limerence. "We have seen a few other boats from our Ha-Ha 2000 group, including George Conger of the Livingston, Texas-based Valiant 40 Chanticleer. We also met up with John and Amanda Neal of the Hallberg-Rassy 46 Mahina Tiare, who were transiting to the Pacific after returning from their trip to Northern Europe last year. While here, we put together a little cruising guide to Panama that your readers might enjoy."

Thanks for the informative mini cruising guide to Panama - which we'll be publishing next in the March 1 edition. It should prove helpful for all the cruisers who will soon be flooding south from Mexico.

"When we returned to our boat at Paradise Village near Puerto Vallarta in early January, it was after all the wet stuff in San Francisco, and we were looking forward to enjoying some sunny Mexican cruising," report Steve and Marilyn Hunt of the Lafayette-based Brewer 47 Triumph. "The second night here, however, we were awakened early in the morning by rain coming through the hatch - which isn't that unusual. We closed the hatches and went back to sleep. But before long, we started hearing hailstones bombarding our decks. That's right, hail in paradise! It's not only unusual, nobody can remember it happening before. It was accompanied by thunder and lightning, as well as strong winds. The boats across the channel in Nuevo Vallarta claimed that it blew 50 knots, but we didn't have anything quite that strong by Paradise Resort's big bulkhead. When I went out on deck in the morning, there was a two-inch accumulation of 3/8" hailstones still piled up along the handrails! How often do you get the chance to have a snowball fight in Puerto Vallarta? It's now a week later, and once again it is warm and beautiful - the norm for winter here."

"We read about the fellow Ha-Ha skipper who had a bad experience with his Visa card in Cabo," report Blair and Joan Grinols of Capricorn Cat. "There have been a couple of bad incidents around here in Melaque also. Two skippers reported that shortly after buying fuel in Barra de Navidad with their Visa cards, large charges were made against their accounts by a furniture store in Cabo San Lucas. I put the word out on all of the radio nets, so hopefully nobody else will get burned. I also bent the port captain's ear about it. He said that all we could do was report it to the marina office so they could start an investigation. We've done that."

"It's now a week later," Blair and Joan continue, "and we're having a great time down here in Z-town. But we're a little tired from attending so many parties, dinners, and volleyball games on the beach! We went over the hill to Ixtapa a few days ago for dinner and a movie, and afterwards stopped at Rick's Bar to listen to the Peruvian flute players. The next day, a bunch of friends joined us for dinner at a swanky restaurant overlooking the bay to celebrate Joanie's birthday. Last night we had drinks in the bar of a super expensive hotel overlooking the bay, then we enjoyed dinner at a beachside palapa. So life is tough. Tomorrow we're taking a boatload of cruisers - the ones who couldn't get on the list for last week's trip - for a snorkel outing to Isla Grande aboard Capricorn Cat. There's already a waiting list for next week's trip. Friday afternoon we're having a dinghy raft-up and hors d'oeuvres party on our boat so everybody can mingle and watch the sunset. Whew!"

What Blair failed to mention is that by the time this issue hits the streets, his Capricorn Cat and our Profligate will have sailed a charity race in Z-town during the Zihau Sail Fest on behalf of some of the indigenous people who live nearby. If Cap Cat can carry 25 people, and if Profligate can carry 40, and everybody chips in $25, over $1,500 should be raised. All of the money will go to the Indians, much of it for helping them learn to speak Spanish!

Mariners now have to check in with the port captain here at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, which is about 10 miles north of Puerto Vallarta," reports Joe Scirica of the Redondo Beach-based Beneteau 40 CC Music. "But it's a painless process. Just fill out the form that he gives you, have your exit papers from the last port, and pay him the fee. It helps to have close to exact change. At this point there is no immigration, no API, and no having to go to the bank. La Cruz continues to have a great cruiser community, so it's worth the small hassle."

"In New Zealand it is clearly and widely understood that cruisers are exempt the goods and services tax on boat related expenditures," advise Kris and Sandra Hartford of the St. Albert, Alberta, Canada-based Nomotos. "It's supposed to be the same in Australia, but cruisers have generally found that Australian businesses don't want to bother with it. As a result, cruisers have had to do all of the running around to get the information from the government, and even so, some companies still refuse to go by the law. It got so bad that a few cruisers hired a lawyer to threaten legal action if one chandlery didn't give their GST back. Qualifying for a GST exemption is not difficult, as a foreign cruiser only has to show his passport, boat registration, and Temporary Australian Boat Importation. GST has only been in effect in Australia for about a year, so hopefully things will improve. By the way, Latitude was the most read sailing magazine in Mexico, and we're pleased to report that it's also the case 'out here' - when we're lucky enough to get a copy. We appreciate your forthright approach in reporting the good and bad points of products, services, and suppliers. It figures highly in our decision-making as well as in that of our fellow cruisers. Please keep up the good work!"

Thanks for the kind words. We'd be nothing without the great contributions from readers - such as the one you just made. Another kind of great contribution is when readers headed out to their boats in distant waters, or friends' boats in distant waters, bring along a bunch of Latitudes. You'll be loved by all the cruisers who haven't seen a Latitude in a while, and you'll be loved by us for helping with our distribution.

"Joyeux noël et bonne annee a vous tous! Nous pensons a vous depuis nortre petite ile de Marquises perdue au milieux du Pacifique. A bientot." So write Georges, Thily, and their sons An and Kheo. Georges built a high-performance 46-ft cat Toko-Toko in France, after which the family sailed her across the Atlantic. They did day charters for a few years out of St. Barts - which is where we met them - and are currently on their second year in the Pacific. Georges is French, Thily is - if we're not mistaken - Vietnamese, and their sons are handsome Eurasians. What a great family! If anybody sees them in the Pacific, please give them our regards.

"It's two days before Christmas and we're here at Pedro Miguel Boat Club inside the Panama Canal with the crews of 25 other boats," report Richard Brooker and Grace Spencer of the Winnipeg, Canada-based Mystery Cove 38 cat Crocodile Rock. "While some cruisers have gone home for the holidays, the rest of us are just trying to keep up with the hectic social calendar of potluck dinners, Xmas parties, quilting classes, movie nights, and the usual evening rounds of Mexican Train dominoes. How will we survive? The Pedro Miguel BC can only be described as 'funky', and many of the cruisers who stop - it's part of the way through a Canal transit - discover that it's hard to leave. Thanks to the great management of Jim and Heather Andrews, the club is once again the place to be in Panama. Other West Coast boats now here include Djarrka of Morro Bay, Wave Dancer of Anacortes, C-Lise II of Seattle, About Time of L.A., Shilo of Huntington Beach, Tulameen of Vancouver, B.C., Desiderata of San Francisco, Germania II of Long Beach, Second Life of San Francisco, and Pretty Woman of Sacramento. The rest of the boats are from all over the world, from Germany to Hong Kong. Since we work along the way to support our cruising habit, we couldn't let a great business opportunity pass us by. With over 600 yachts transiting each year, the Canal is one of the great boating crossroads of the world. Yet there are almost no yachting services. So we've decided to stay for a year and develop a rigging and yacht services business. It's already become an instant success. It also helps that Grace loves Panama!"

"As for Michael Beattie and Layne Goldman's comment in the October Changes that "there is nothing there" in Corinto, Nicaragua," Richard and Grace continue, "we suppose it all depends on what a person expects. The anchorage at Corinto was secure, the town was exceptionaly clean, the people were friendly and helpful (without having their hands out), and the food was tasty. Except for one official trying to get double the $15 US fee for the exit zarpe - Silvio quickly corrected that - the officials were welcoming and accomodating. We don't need more than this to have a great time."

"We just arrived at the Santa Lucia YC in La Libertad, Ecuador, after a five-day passge from the Galapagos Islands," report Jackie and Malcolm of a boat whose name, type, and hailing port they neglected to include. "We are well, but are looking forward to some rest and some good Christmas food. Fortunately, there is a wonderful supermarket nearby where we were able to buy most of the familiar Christmas items - including a turkey and brussel sprouts!"

"We're West Coast sailors who decided to ship our boat from San Diego to Louisiana," report Ken and Becky Gunderson of the Portland-based Northern 37 ketch Polaris. "We're now sailing our boat along the Gulf States and will soon sail south along the west coast of Florida to Key West. Would you be interested in a story of our adventures?" Of course, we'd be interested. But don't forget photos of yourselves, your boat, and a couple of the places that you've been.

"It pleases me to greet you very kindly on behalf of the Hemingway International YC of Cuba, as well as to wish you a Happy New Year 2002 with success and good health," writes Lic. Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, Commodore of the Hemingway Int. YC. "In the year of the 10th Anniversary of the Hemingway Int. YC of Cuba, founded on May 21st of 1992, we will work with much more love for the contribution of the recreational boating and nautical tourism development in Cuba, and for the strengthening of the collaboration and friendly relations with the international nautical community." Jose Diaz is a great guy. If you take your boat to Cuba and find yourself in some sort of difficulty - which almost certainly won't happen - and see if he can't help you.

"It's been a couple of years since the '99 Ha-Ha, and Debbie and I are presently hanging out at Fanning Island, Kirabati Islands, waiting out tropical cyclone season," report Jeff and Debbie Hartjoy of the Washington-based Baba 40 ketch Sailor's Run. "We're sending you an article - via the Norwegian Star cruise ship that operates out of Hawaii - to bring your readers up to date on our latest adventures. Come May, we'll sail to American Samoa, and lay the boat up for two months while we return home to visit family and friends. We'd like to thank Latitude and Andy for the Pacific Puddle Jump Party that you put on at Paradise Marina. It was a great help in preparing a diverse group of sailors - with a wealth of information - for safe and interesting passages to and through French Polynesia. We're currently 2.5 years into our 15-year circumnavigation, and are still having fun. By the way, we plan to have a digital camera within the next six months, so that should help with our future reports."

Once you try digital, Jeff and Debbie, you'll never go back to film. In case anybody missed our article on digital cameras, we'll summarize it as follows: Don't get anything under 3 million pixels, the bigger the optical zoom the better, and 'digital zoom' is for suckers. Nikon and Olympus are among those who make fine 'pro-sumer digitals', but one that meets most of our needs is the Fujifilm 6900, which has a terrific zoom lens despite being light and compact. Check it out!

The date of this year's Pacific Puddle Jump Party - which the Hartjoy's referred to, is March 5. It's co-hosted by Latitude and Paradise Resort & Marina. The event is only for those headed across the Pacific this year.

Paradise Marina & Resort gets mentioned quite a bit in Cruise Notes because there are a lot of things going on there. But we'd also love to get reports and updates from marinas all over Mexico - to say nothing about the rest of the Pacific, the Caribbean, the Med, and Asia. Write us and tell us what's happening.

"We sailed west from Ventura on April 21, 2000, until we got to the tradewinds, then turned south, and 23 days later we arrived at Hiva Oa in the Marquesas," report Barry and Lynne Thompson of the China Lake-based Wauquiez 38 Sunrise. "We then continued on the Milk Run to Opua, New Zealand, arriving on October 31 after an extremely easy run from Tonga. We bought a car that we used - along with our feet - for touring all over New Zealand. We're currently hunkered down here at Opua, waiting for the summer vacation madness to abate before we do some more sailing in the Bay of Islands and to the north."

"We spent Christmas and New Year's anchored at Middle Cove on Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez," report Steve and Angelina Phillips of the Napa-based Catalina 42 Fruitcakes. "The anchorage is big enough for maybe three boats, but we - and our three dogs - were the only ones there for 10 days. Except for the occasional kayakers, we also had the beach to ourselves to enjoy the full moon - and get the Baja 'jump start' of the libido that you have documented in the last few issues. We also drove the Baja Highway for the first time in eight years and were stunned by the growth in the Tijuana-Ensenada corridor. Wow! There's now a movie studio near where I used to camp and surf in the '70s."

"After watching many vessels get stuck in the mud trying to get into the lagoon at Barra de Navidad, the crews of Slainte and Li'l Gem set buoys to mark the channel," report Allan and Liz of Slainte. "Janet of Bambolera contacted the port captain in Barra to get permission to set the buoys. The entrance is pretty straightforward. After passing the Grand Bay Hotel Marina entrance, head toward the island in the lagoon on 130° magnetic. You should point your bow 100 feet to the left of the island. Then look back and keep the two red commercial buoys in line with each other all the way to the island. The red commercial buoys will stay at 310° magnetic. The four buoys set by Slainte and Li'l Gem will be clearly visible as you proceed to the lagoon on 130°. Do not turn into the lagoon until you're 150 feet from the island. The channel is between 10 to 17 feet deep at low tide, and over 100 feet wide. The lagoon is nearly 600 feet square, with depths of between 9 and 14 feet. I've enclosed a chart. Barra has some great things to offer - including Tessa's excellent hamburgers and homemade milkshakes, the view from Casa Chips, the ATM, a French bakery, several other fine restaurants, and other good stores. And, it's just a 10-minute bus ride to the nearby beachfront town of Melaque, where there's more fun to be had and exploring to be done."

Allan and Liz created a chartlet of the Barra de Navidad entrance and lagoon. It can be found at, 'Lectronic Latitude for Monday, January 28. Use the chartlet at your own risk, of course, as those who set the buoys and created the chartlets are not professionals and because conditions change constantly.

"We're not at Bahia Herradura, Costa Rica," report Mike and Gail Cannady of the Longview, Washington-based Cal 34 Mark III Wild Rover. "After the 2000 Ha-Ha, we - and our two cats - spent six month harbor-hopping down the coast of Mexico, then crossed the Gulf of Tehauntepec in May. Guatemala and El Salvador had not been high on our list of places to visit, but we ended up spending two months in these countries, doing lots of travel inland. Barillas Marina in El Salvador was a great place to do maintenance and repairs, and to leave the boat while making quick trips home. And San Juan de Sur, Nicaragua is not to be missed. We're now enjoying Costa Rica, which is beautiful and clear. Being from the Pacific Northwest, we don't think we could have survived the dry heat of the Sea of Cortez, so we're glad we kept heading south. Our advice to cat owners is to stock up on kitty litter in Acapulco, as you won't find anymore - unless you go inland - until Costa Rica.

"We're back in Puerto Escondido after a trip home to California for the holidays," advise Dave and Merry Wallace of the Redwood City-based Amel Maramu Air Ops. "It rained almost every day back home, but it was good to see the family. While driving back down the coast of Baja, we saw some interesting signage along the highway. Starting just south of Ensenada, prominent signs with distances in kilometers appeared about every 20 km that say "Escalera Nautico". The signs are the blue with white letters that are generally used for tourist attractions and services. It turns out that the distance tracks to 0 at the intersection of Hwy 1 and the road to Bahia de Los Angeles - where we took the accompanying photograph. The mystery is why do the distance markers end at the intersection? Do they intend to build something there and name it Escalera Nautica? Is this related to Ed Grossman's plan to ship boats across Baja via a 'land canal'? We suppose that only time will tell."

Escalera Nautico refers, of course, to the Mexican government's plan to lure - with marinas, fuel docks, airports, hotels, and golf courses - 50,000 American boatowners and their boats to Baja and the Sea of Cortez. Why the intersection of Highway 1 and the road to Bahia de Los Angeles would be 0 is a mystery to us.

Dates to remember: March 12, the first annual Spinnaker Cup for charity, from Punta de Mita to Paradise Marina near P.V. Bring your boat and/or your body - plus $25 for charity - to Punta de Mita before noon on March 12. But most important, don't forget the really big event that starts the next day - the 10th annual Banderas Bay Cruiser's Regatta, March 14 to 17, at Paradise Marina. Not only does this event have perhaps the best facilities and sailing conditions in the world for a cruisers' regatta, but local businesses pick up the entry fee for the boats! In addition to the racing, there's three nights of all-you-want cocktails and finger foods, plus the grand awards dinner feast - all for about $60 per person. The BBR has also become the 'cruiser formal' of the season, so make a trip to the laundry before the 14th. Many boats - including Profligate - will be sailing in this regatta for the fifth - or more - year in a row. You don't want to miss this one, even if you're "not a racer". It's mellow fun and their are non-spinnaker divisions. If you're thinking about going cruising and want to get a feel for the life and people, March 14 to 17 is a good time to fly to Puerto Vallarta and check it out - and very possibly snag a position as crew. Visit for complete details. We'll see you there!

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