With reports this month from
Nepenthe on a surprise trip to Malaysia;
from Mary Ann II on a nine-month cruise
from California to Texas; from Serendipity
on another season in the Caribbean; from Suzy
Q. on quitting work to sail the Med; from Moonshadow
on the Oz's Hami and Hoggie regattas; from GeJa
on cruising the French Canals with an Islander 36; from Waterdragon
on a budget cruise to New Zealand; from La
Puerta on 'anti-snowbirding' in the Caribbean; and lots of
Nepenthe - Folkes 39
Kuah, Langkawi, Malaysia
The South Pacific cruising season started normally enough.
In May, Nepenthe and I set sail from New Zealand for the
tropical islands of the South Pacific. Shortly after our arrival
in Fiji, my old friend Tavida graciously extended an invitation
to several of us sailors to join him for dinner. Tavida is now
the headmaster of a secondary school located between Lautoka
and Ba on the north coast of Viti Levu, but when I first met
him many years ago, he was the captain of a fishing vessel. He
is a most imposing gentleman, as he stands about 6'7" and
weighs about 280 pounds!
Not too surprisingly, Tavida's student charges were widely held
to be models of proper deportment, for when the need arose, he
could be very stern. But to us, he was more like a gigantic version
of Peter Ustinov - hugely expansive, with a magnificent sense
of humor, and a seemingly limitless ability to mimic personalities
of the day. We had gathered in the main room of his house and
were enjoying a few Fiji Bitters before the promised meal when
Tavida stood and gave a short speech.
"Ni sa bula! Welcome to my home, my friends. Before we get
started, I must make an apology of sorts. I had promised you
that I would prepare the crème de la crème of all
the world's hors d'oeuvres: sea anemone a la Tavida. A truly
unforgettable dish. Sadly, however, my son has had a mishap with
our boat and was unable to gather the required key ingredient
from mother sea. I am afraid we will have to do without them
this evening. But never fear, for I know that Leone, my dear
wife, has prepared sufficient food to satisfy the hungriest of
Before continuing, Tavida fixed a steady gaze. "After all,
my friends," he continued throwing wide his arms and booming
out, "With friends like these, who needs anemones!?"
Yes, he's a funny one. But it was not Tavida's excessive hospitality,
nor the ensuing extended kava/beer hangover that was responsible
for what followed. It simply seemed like a good idea at the time
- although later I would have some doubts. The 'it' being a plan
to sail to Thailand or Malaysia nonstop via the Arafura and Timor
Seas, and then up the west side of Sumatra, a journey of some
6,000 miles. This unusual route has the advantage of avoiding
Australia, Indonesia, and the Straits of Malacca. The plan almost
worked, and here's a short version of it:
Brisk southeast winds followed me from westward across the Pacific,
making for great downwind sailing. It was a romp! The Torres
Strait was truly a singlehander's nightmare, however, as there
were low-lying reefs everywhere. It's an easy place for a sailor,
particularly a singlehander, to come to grief. Once on the west
side of the Straits, the wind held for a few days, and then more
or less quit. Save for a few days near Christmas Island, the
wind stayed somewhere between light and nonexistent for the rest
of the trip. It was very, very slow.
I had been 42 days at sea when I made landfall at Christmas Island,
which is owned by Australia. I was very promptly informed that
I was eligible for detention - jail - and a huge fine, as I had
no Australian visa. When the four officials arrived to thoroughly
search Nepenthe, I pleaded the 'law of the sea', and was
given time to get fuel and water. In truth, the latter was getting
very low. I was also in need of a few cold beers, although I'm
not certain the 'law of the sea' covers the need for alcohol.
Nonetheless, one of the local Aussies gave me a tour of the island,
and showed me the new concentration camp - we're supposed to
call it a 'detention center' - that's being built on Christmas.
Inside were a bunch of folks he understood to be Vietnamese.
I did not wear out my unwelcome.
The rest of the trip took another 3+ weeks in light and fitful
winds. The doldrums/convergence zone ran from about 4 degrees
south to 3 degrees north. Yuk! I had reserved the decision of
whether to make landfall at Phuket, Thailand, or Langkawi, Malaysia,
until the last minute. It turned out that the winds for the latter
were marginally better. The voyage took a lot longer than I wished,
but all things considered, it was a success. That is I'm still
alive and well, and Nepenthe is still afloat.
Upon arrival at unfamiliar places, I usually try to learn a few
words of the local language. When I got to Langkawi, I got some
local money and headed for the grocery store. I'd had enough
of 'Captain's Surprise' and my 'Canovers' for a long while. For
those of you who don't know, a 'Canover' is a can of something
served over a can of something else. Anyway, it was thus not
totally surprising that I learned my first Malay word in the
aisle of the grocery store. It was Ubi Kentang - meaning potato.
While this word is hardly sufficient for deep philosophical conversations,
it can elicit some amusing facial expressions. Try it. Walk up
to someone and say 'potato' and nothing more. Then just wait
and watch what happens. Most folks have never realized what confusion
a simple word like that can cause.
- tom 12/15/04
Readers - We have no idea why veteran
circumnavigator Scott suddenly decided to bolt from the South
Pacific to Southern Asia. But we do know it was only a short
time after he got there that the tsunami struck. Fortunately,
Scott and his boat were unhurt. He was in Malaysia. More in Cruise Notes.
Mary Ann II - Yorktown 35
Jed & Monica Mortenson
San Diego To Texas In Nine Months
My wife Monica and I participated in the 2003 Ha-Ha aboard our
1974 Yorktown Mary Ann II, and continued cruising until
just a few months ago. We'd been planning to send Latitude updates
on our progress, but just never got around to it. Both Monica
and I were astounded at how busy we were cruising. Between provisioning,
boat maintenance, and a lot of exploring and adventures, the
days just filled up. So I'll try to give you a super synopsized
version with a few of our highlights.
After the Ha-Ha we headed south along the coast of Mexico, then
on to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. After going
through the Canal, we sailed down to the San Blas Islands, up
to Providencia Island, over to Honduras and Guatemala, up to
Belize and Isla Mujeres, and finally arrived in Galveston, Texas
in August of '04. Here are some of the highlights:
The Baja Ha-Ha - What a great way to kick off our adventure!
Not only did it set a firm date for our departure ("Oh God,
how will we be ready in time?!" everyone says. But don't
worry, you'll make it.) The Ha-Ha also gave us a circumstance
in which to met a ton of great people - who we continued to run
into in little anchorages months down the road.
Mazatlan - This was one of our favorite stops. The cruiser community
and 'palaptics' of the three marinas just north of the city were
amusing for a short time, but the quiet of the old anchorage
south of town and the charm of Old Town Mazatlan are the real
reasons to go.
San Blas - I hesitate to mention the infamous 'Captain Norm',
but San Blas is a lovely little town, and Norm is certainly no
reason not to go. He is regarded by both the locals and the ex-pats
as a bit of a joke. Just ignore him and go explore the town or,
embrace the adventure, go meet this harmless character and say
'hi' - then ingore him and go explore the town.
Sayulita - This little gem of a town is a relatively short bus
ride north from Puerto Vallarta. We spent a wonderful Christmas
Day here with friends Janna and Graeme from Dragonfly
and their families. The town was a bit crowded with tourists,
but I would imagine it's paradise in the off season. It has good
waves for surfing, too.
Guadalajara - What a beautiful old Mexican town with a European
feel - and well worth the effort needed to get there. We left
our boat in Paradise Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, rented a car,
and drove to Guadalajara for New Years. There was a full orchestra
playing a free concert in the main plaza the night we arrived.
Mexico's Gold Coast - I won't say much about this area because
everyone else raves about it, too. And they're justified in doing
so. Anyone planning to cruise Mexico should set aside enough
time to fully explore the fantastic 175-mile stretch of coast
between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.
Barillas Marina, El Salvador - This is a great little spot to
rest up after crossing the potentially dangerous Gulf of Tehuantepec
and from which to explore inland El Salvador. Heriberto, the
marina manager, could not be friendlier or more helpful. He and
the marina make checking in and out of the country a snap - which
is a pleasant change after Mexico! One caution - the bar of the
river that eventually leads to the marina can be an E-Ticket
ride under the wrong conditions. At one point, two waves doubled-up
under us, then dropped us sideways back into the water. The skipper
of the powerboat motoring next to us called on the VHF to report
that I'd done a good job cleaning the bottom - except for having
missed a spot at the very bottom of the keel. He could see it!
Monteverde, Costa Rica - The cloud-forest of Costa Rica is worth
the molar-rattling bus ride to get there. We left the boat at
the yacht club in Puntarenas in order to make the trip. Make
sure to do a zip-line tour, as flying through rain forest canopy
hundreds of feet in the air is a real rush!
Drake's Bay, Costa Rica - An amazing, secluded, ruggedly-beautiful
anchorage, with miles and miles of phenomenal jungle hiking in
The Panama Canal - Man, what an experience! This was my third
transit, and blew my mind as much as my first. It was also my
first time through on my own boat, so that added an order of
magnitude of stress - but also of pride after we made it through
successfully. On the way through the narrow Gaillard Cut, we
had to rescue a French boat which had lost her engine. Yes, Americans
rescuing the French yet again! (Sorry, I couldn't resist!) We
pulled them from the jaws of possible disaster, as they were
dead center in the narrow channel and there was a giant car carrier
coming the other way.
Because I was a line-handler for the transit, Monica - who had
never done more than a trip to Catalina before this adventure
- manned the helm the entire way through the canal, even downlocking
with the disabled French boat tied alongside. I was so proud
of her! Even Alex, our Canal Advisor, told me how impressed he
was with her helmsmanship.
Portobello, Panama - It seems as though a lot of people rush
through or by this little town on their way from the Canal to
the San Blas islands - but it's an incredible spot and deserves
more time. This is where the Spaniards loaded their galleons
with stolen gold before sending it back to Europe. Talk about
'pirates of the Caribbean', this was the real deal! Sir Francis
Drake sacked and burned the town in the 1590s, and Captain Henry
Morgan raided it in 1668. The well-preserved ruins of not one,
but several, Spanish forts still stand guard over the bay. One
could easily spend a couple of days hiking around the ruins.
And don't miss the smaller and less-visited watchtower forts
high on the hills on both sides of the bay.
Rio Dulce, Guatemala - The trip up the narrow, jungle-covered
gorge of the river between Livingston and Fronteras is unbelievably
beautiful. The town of Fronteras boasts several marinas and has
swallowed the anchor of many cruisers who have been here for
years - maybe too many years. We left our boat with the friendly
folks at the Catamaran Marina, and took a bus to see the awe-inspiring
Mayan ruins of Tikal.
Belize - Monica and I are both divers, so we really loved Belize.
On one dive we descended toward the reef and found ourselves
surrounded by seven nurse sharks and several grouper. Too cool!
We also enjoyed some of our best sailing here, as we'd have 15
knots of Caribbean breeze on the beam and be skimming along the
glassy waters inside the barrier reef. Picture perfect! It's
not, however, a good place for a deep draft boat. We went aground
a couple of times, but always on soft sand or mud, and we were
always able to get ourselves off. We spent several weeks in water
that was never more than 12 feet deep, and frequently even less.
As we draw 6.5 feet, this was starting to elevate my blood pressure.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico - Although it's a fairly touristy little
spot, it still has charm. The main draw is that the Paradise
Marina is a very inexpensive and friendly place to leave your
boat if you wanted to go to Cuba. Not that we went there, of
course, because that would have been illegal.
Our San Diego to Texas itinerary in nine months had us moving
faster than most cruisers, but given our limited time and budget,
I think we did a good job of balancing our desire to cover a
good chunk of ground with our need to relax and explore each
Once in Galveston, we pulled the mast and cleared the decks in
preparation for having the boat trucked back to California. A
couple of weeks later, Mary Ann II arrived at the KKMI
yard in Richmond, and after getting her bottom painted and mast
stepped, she was once more in the Pacific. Having lived in L.A.
for the past 15 years, my wife and I have relocated to San Francisco.
Our boat now sits happily in her slip in Emery Cove Marina, and
we are very much looking forward to exploring the Bay by boat.
So be sure to look for us out there - we'll be on the beamy,
30+ year-old 'Clorox bottle' of a boat that everyone else is
screaming past. But we'll be enjoying ourselves!
- jed 12/01/04
Serendipity - Peterson 44
Barritt Neal & Renee Blaul
We thought an update might be in order since you're in St. Barth
as we write this, and last season you interviewed us in St. Barth.
We spent the hurricane season in Venezuela, thankfully dodging
the bullet Ivan that hit Grenada. We had Serendipity Awlgripped
while in Puerto La Cruz at the Aqua-Vi Marina and Boatyard. Both
hull and topsides were painted, and we were completely satisfied
as the old girl just sparkles. We liked the price also. Everything
- including four new thru-the-gunnel scuppers - came to a little
less than $7,500 for our Peterson 44. And that included $1,700
worth of paint. It gets better. The yard didn't charge for the
haulout, for any of the two month's worth of laydays, and they
even put on the new bottom paint for free. The
yard and marina manager is Victor Diaz de Leon, an avid sailor
and racer. He speaks fluent English, runs an efficient yard,
and he and his crew know the boat repair and maintenance business.
Puerto La Cruz is the yachting center for Venezuela, and the
marinas stay pretty full. A slip is about $300/month for a boat
like ours. Fuel and gas prices are subsidized by the government
and are in the 20-cent range. That's not a typo, as it's indeed
about 20 cents U.S. per gallon. Nearby Isla Margarita is duty-free
and the provisioning is excellent. The stores are Costco-like
and prices are great. The dollar brings about 2,400 Bolivars
on the black market, down from 3,100 last May. Black market prices
abound for almost everything - including airline tickets. Renee
and I flew home - Puerto la Cruz/Barcelona to Caracas, then Caracas
to LAX - for $650 each round-trip on TACA, which provided good
We enjoyed cruising the Venezuelan offshore islands. Aves was
our favorite, as it had crystal clear water, interesting bird
life, and plentiful lobsters. In fact, one six-pounder bloodied
me badly in quite a battle. The only downsides of Venezuela are
a rising incidence of robberies and the ongoing political turmoil.
We will be heading back to the Virgins at the end of February
for another swing through the island chain. Our plan is to be
in Trinidad for the hurricane season, then do the ABC Islands
- Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao - prior to going back through
the Canal to the Pacific.
- barritt & renee 12/30/04
Suzy Q. - Wauquiez 45
Joe & Susan Altman
Doing The Med
We quit our jobs - Susan after 15 years at West Marine, and Joe
from a Silicon Valley high tech company - and moved aboard our
boat in the South of France in May of 2004. Then, after completing
some boat work, we cast off in the middle of June and headed
east. From the Côte d'Azur, we crossed the Ionian Sea to
the Italian island of Elba, where Napolean was first exiled.
We then continued down the Italian coast and around the 'boot'.
Highlights of this part of the trip included Port Grimaud near
St. Tropez, the Tuscan Islands, Rome, Ischia, and Naples. We
then crossed the Ligurian Sea to Corfu, Greece, before continuing
on to the southern Aegean Islands. We're now in Marmaris, Turkey,
having covered 1,500 miles in four months.
As this was our 'shakedown cruise', we learned a lot along the
way. We were surprised by the weather extremes of the Med. A
common saying is, 'There are two kinds of boats in the Med, motorboats
and motorboats with sticks'. And how true! We motored 75% of
the time between France and Turkey. When there is wind, it can
be extreme, going from Force 1 to Force 6 in a matter of minutes.
This really keeps you on your toes.
There seems to be no speed limit in the anchorages or marinas
of Italy, and boy do those people go fast! When you have several
boats whizzing about, the anchorage turns into a washing machine.
We were most surprised by the marinas in Greece. Most of them
were almost completed - meaning having everything but water and
electrical hookups - and offered excellent protection. But oddly
enough, they were abandoned in the sense that nobody was managing
them or collecting money for staying in them. This certainly
helped our cruising kitty.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the wonderful people we
met along the way. The people of Italy, Greece, and Turkey were
particularly friendly. Although we were strangers in a strange
land, the locals we met were very nice and helpful. For example,
one night at a sidewalk cafe, a local entertainer serenaded us
with a rendition of When The Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big
Pizza Pie, That's Amore - sung in English rather than Italian.
Although we didn't always speak the local language, overall we
managed to communicate with sign language and a smile.
We're headed back to Turkey for the winter for some boat upgrades,
and then we'll travel west toward Spain in April.
- joe & susan 12/20/04
Moonshadow - Deerfoot 62
Spring Break For Adults In Oz
The travel brochures describe the weather in Queensland, Australia,
as "beautiful one day, perfect the next." The thing
is, it's really true. In the three months I've been here, I can
count the less-than-perfect days on one hand. This is probably
the reason that hundreds of yachties come to the Whitsunday Islands
each spring from all over Australia, New Zealand, and a few other
countries, to compete in either or both the Hog's Breath 'Tropical
Shirt' Regatta and Hamilton Island Race Week - aka, the 'Hamo
Nevermind that many of the top yachts and sailors from Australasia
are here, that sailing conditions are nearly ideal in the warm,
gentle trade-winds, that the Whitsunday Islands make for attractive
rounding marks, that Airlie Beach (Hoggies) and Hamilton Island
are rockin' post-race party venues, or that throngs of comely
'racer chasers' show up to mix with the sailors. It's just plain
fun - and the closest thing to Spring Break for those of us who
went to college before Spring Break was invented.
I sailed in to Airlie Beach a few days before the start of the
Hog's Breath Regatta after a 600-nautical mile coastal cruise
north from Brisbane, my Australian port of entry. Airlie is billed
as "the gateway to the Whitsundays", and is a vibrant
little township full of backpacker's (budget travelers) accommodations,
inexpensive pubs and eateries, and scores of brochure-flinging
agencies hawking all sorts of travel and adrenaline-inducing
activities in the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef. After
a month of unhurried cruising, I was keen to get my own adrenaline
flowing by doing some yacht racing, so I cruised the docks at
Abel Point Marina in search of a ride for the regatta.
I caught up with mates Anthony and Jeanine, owners of the Farr
38 General Jackson, who I'd met during the Auckland to
Noumea Race. They were looking for crew, so I signed on as a
headsail/spinnaker trimmer for the seven-day, nine-race regatta.
While half the crew were pick-ups, Ant, our skipper, did an excellent
job of getting the best out of the crew and boat in the conditions.
We managed all single-digit finishes in a division of 14 boats,
and finished the series with a one point victory in the PHS (second)
Division over Auckland sled Hydroflow. The Kiwi sled had been
celebrating a record run - less than four days - in the Auckland
to Noumea race. Hydroflow's navigator, who managed to misinterpret
the course sheet on one race and (apparently) the tide/current
chart on another, was tossed into the drink by fellow crewmembers
after the last race. In yacht racing, as in many other sports,
a team player is only as good as their last victory.
The atmosphere of the Hoggie was laid-back and cheerful, with
many crews kitted out in matching tropical shirts. On the other
hand, the sailing schedule was pretty rigorous, with races on
six out of seven days, and multiple races on two of those days.
We were on the water from five to eight hours a day, so time
and energy for spirited socializing was minimal. In fact, there
was barely time for a couple of rum and cokes at the Mt. Gay
Party marquee each day before it wound up at 6 pm. For those
looking for a big night, the party would usually carry on at
the Whitsunday Sailing Club, the official yacht club of the Hoggies,
or at the local Hog's Breath Cafe, the regatta sponsor.
With just one lay-day in between the two regattas, we sailed
the 20 miles from Airlie to Hamilton Island, where I caught up
with my Auckland sailing mates and fellow crew from Formula One.
Ellen, Kevin, Jan and Neil had all flown over to race with me
aboard Moonshadow in Hamilton Island Sailing Week.
If the Hog's Breath is the pork ribs of the two regattas, Hamilton
Island is the filet mignon. It is billed as the premier regatta
of the Southern Hemisphere, attracting nearly 200 yachts, mostly
from Australia and New Zealand. Among the entries were Grant
Wharrington's 80-foot sled Wild Thing, Stuart Thwaite's
100-foot maxi Zana, as well as a plethora of lesser known
boats - such as my Deerfoot 62 from Sausalito. On the water,
both regattas feature some great racing. Off the water, they
are as different as beer and champagne.
First off, the average price of admission is about 50% higher
for Hamo. It's not hard to see where they spend the extra bucks,
either. As you arrive in the Hamilton Island Marina, there's
a guide boat to take you to your assigned berth and assist you
with tie up. Then a hostess arrives with a logo'd cooler full
of chilled Hahn Premium Beers and a race packet. The daily post-race
party at Hoggies ended at 6 p.m., while the one at Hamo featured
a live band going till 4 a.m. - preventing some crew from taking
the racing too seriously. There were two fireworks displays during
the week, as well as three aerial displays by an Australian precision
flying team. At Hamo, they sweated the niceties. For those having
a few beers on board after the race, there was a guy with a bin
walking the docks, collecting empties and garbage. During sundowners,
there was a live jazz band on a pontoon boat serenading the moored
fleet. Hamilton Island's township - with its shops, cafes, restaurants,
pubs and clubs - is essentially incorporated into the marina.
With nearly 200 yachts and more than 1,000 sailors in attendance,
the atmosphere was hugely festive.
The quality of racing in both regattas was excellent. Plagued
by light winds in the Hoggies, we were forced to sail some shortened
harbor courses around laid marks on two of the race days. Hamilton
Island's more offshore location in the middle of the Whitsundays
makes it more favorable to setting courses around islands according
to wind speed and direction. The Hamo racing was a bit better
organized, nonetheless, the starts for the 99 boats in the cruising
divisions were nothing short of kamikaze missions as the combined
beam of the fleet was easily three times the width of the average
start line. Add a breaching whale or two into the picture, and
it all got verrrrrry interesting. I'm sure there was a lot of
paint-swapping going on, particularly in the light air.
In fact, during the second race, we managed to take out the bimini
top, solar panels, and flagstaff of the appropriately named smaller
yacht Helter Skelter, which had underestimated our speed
and gybed onto port - giving up any rights - before she was clear
ahead of us. Neil, on the foredeck, calmly pushed the boat clear,
handing the other owner all his gear back, while notifiying me
that Moonshadow had come through without a scratch.
On the last start, we were boxed in, with a choice of going over
the start line early or hoping that the slower moving boats in
front of us would part like the Red Sea. Being the eternal optimist
hoping for a temporary acquittal from the laws of physics, I
opted for choice 'B'. Either my prayers were answered, or else
the skippers ahead were looking in their rear view mirrors and
decided to observe the 'tonnage rule'. We found a small hole
and got the committee boat end of the start line within a second
or two of the start gun in clear air, then narrowly missed a
breaching whale for our best start of the regatta. There were
lots of high fives on board after that one!
The Cruising Division of Hamo had two lay-days during the week.
This gave us a bit more rest and less stress, and allowed the
crew to spend some time enjoying the lovely tropical resort facilities
and social activities on Hamilton Island. Throughout the week,
we made friends and added a few more crew who brought various
skills to Moonshadow - including sailing expertise, local
knowledge, 'snacktics, and ornamental. True to our form, we didn't
win the regatta, but didn't lose the party.
- george 12/10/04
GeJa - Islander 36
Dick & Shirley Sandys
Doing The French Canals
Our boat spent the winter of '04 on the hard at Port du Gapeau,
near Hyeres, France, while we enjoyed a mild winter in California.
When we returned in April, we found that she'd been moved, and
the trailer on which she was resting was tilted. It made it hard
to work and sleep on her. So we recaulked our forward hatch,
filled our U.S. propane tank from our French bottle, and deferred
the rest of the maintenance.
(About transferring propane from a French bottle to a U.S. bottle:
You need an unregulated gas line with the French connection at
one end and the U.S. connection at the other end. Then you position
the full French tank above the U.S. tank, and open the valves.
There is an escape valve on the U.S. tank, which must be opened
a little to let gaseous propane bleed off while the liquid propane
gravity feeds from the French tank to the U.S. tank. It's a smelly
business, so it's appreciated if you're downwind of other boats.
We transferred 5 kg of liquid propane this way in less than two
Once relaunched, our first stop was the Porquerolle Islands.
Mooring buoys were available for early arrivals, and we were
able to go ashore for dinner. There are some beautiful anchorages
around the islands for swimming and fishing. From here we continued
on to Toulon, La Ciotat, La Frioul (opposite Marseille), and
the French Navy haulout facility at Port St. Louis. We had our
mast hauled out at the navy yard, and the workers were most helpful.
We left the mast on the hard so we could take GeJa exploring
on the French Canals.
We passed through our first lock at Port St. Louis, which rose
about two feet to the level of the Rhone River. It was July 10,
and shortly thereafter we spent six hours motoring up to Arles.
The current at that time of year averaged about one knot against
us. Arles only had limited space to tie up, so we rafted next
to our Danish friends Karsten and Moody aboard Nicoya. From
there, it was just a short walk from our San Francisco-based
Islander 36 over the bridge to the lovely medieval town. It turned
out we were in time for the Arles Music and Photography Festival.
While later walking from the city, we found Van Gogh's countryside
- white carmague horses, sunflowers, and gothic bridges.
On a windy day we left for Avignon, again against a one-knot
current. We went through a 55-ft lock. Once you tie up to the
floating bollards, negotiating a lock is no problem. We arrived
at Avignon in time for the Theatre Festival. It was fun walking
the streets and seeing all the parades and performances. We also
enjoyed exploring the Palais des Papes, which is where all the
popes hung out in the 15th century.
Following Avignon, we made our way back down the Rhone River
and entered the Canal du Rhone au Seta at St. Gilles. This friendly
village is home to a lovely 12th century abbey. We got a little
stressed in the canal, as it was often as little as two meters
deep, and our Islander draws 1.5 meters - and sometimes more.
It was also in this canal when we came across our first 'do-it-yourself'
lock. We had to tie off before the lock so Dick could run ahead
and translate the instructions. Thanks to the help of a friendly
French family fishing from the bank, we got it right. You press
one button to expel the water from the lock. Once we entered
the lock, it automatically cycled - if we were patient - to let
us out the other end.
Arriving at Boucaire/Tarascon was one of the highlights of our
summer. We scouted out good restaurants, watched the Tour de
France go by, and found a nearby patisserie across the footbridge
on the way into town. On a typical day, we'd have coffee and
croissants while we read the Herald-Tribune until 11 a.m., saunter
about town visiting cathedrals, arenas, and colorful markets,
followed by a walk through town in the cool of the evening.
Aigues-Mortes, a small, walled medieval town, was another one
of our favorite stops. We tied up below the Constance Tower and
walked the impressive ramparts. Within the thick walls of the
city were Gothic churches, restaurants, fountains, and shops.
There seemed to be musicians serenading us from every corner.
Many canal barges tie up at Aigues-Mortes, and it was always
wonderful to have a pleasant chat with Americans on them. Some
have been on the French canals for 20 years! We started hitting
bottom about this time, so we turned back to retrieve our mast
at Pt. St. Louis, having been in the canals for about a month.
Further along the French coast toward Spain, we stopped at Santa
Maria de Mar, Sete, Guissan, and Rousillon. Crossing into Spain,
we stopped at Llanca, Cadaques, and Port Rose. The latter is
a new and very pleasant harbor - but at 42 euros a night was
very expensive. We finally found a place on the hard at Emperiabrava
and left GeJa to her winter fate. We then took a train
from Emperiabrava to Barcelona, and enjoyed that picturesque
city for a week. On this part of the trip, our best harbor was
Sete, which had a small mountain to hike in the middle of town,
and seafood restaurants where we enjoyed Coquilles St. Jacques,
salmon, mouelles, and prawns. If we shopped around, we could
get all these seafood delights at a reasonable price.
We returned to Palo Alto on September 15, just in time for the
Bird boat fleet's annual race on the Bay. Nothing sails like
- dick and shirley 12/06/04
Waterdragon - Islander 34
Graham Ashlock & Taryn Ettl
Opua, New Zealand
It's been over two years since we left Berkeley aboard our Islander
34 Waterdragon to join the 2002 Baja Ha-Ha. In addition
to wanting to say 'hello' to all our sailing friends back home,
we'd like to encourage all the young and not very wealthy folks
out there to go ahead and go for your cruising dreams. We left
the U.S. with $3,000 and a 30-year-old boat. It's true, this
did necessitate leaving our boat at the then not quite open Puesta
del Sol Marina in Nicaragua for eight months while we worked
aboard a dive boat in the Channel Islands during the summer of
2003, but it was still good to get going.
We spent three months cruising 'The Forgotten Middle', which
is Central America between Mexico and Costa Rica. There are a
lot of great stops in this area, and we don't think it gets the
publicity that it deserves. Detailed notes on the anchorages
along this stretch of coast can be downloaded from our website
After Central America, we continued down to Bahia Caraquez, Ecuador.
Steve Cherry of Witch of Endor and Bob Willman of Viva!
have both written in Latitude proclaiming what a great
area it is. And it's everything they said - and more! We came
intending to stay for three days, and stayed for six weeks. A
month of that was spent doing land travel in Ecuador and Peru.
It was while in Ecuador that we obtained our visas for French
Polynesia. It required two trips to the consulate and $23 each.
We left Bahia Caraquez for the Galapagos and Marquesas in early
May of '04, prepared to have all kinds of problems with officials
when we got to French Polynesia. Wrong! When we got to Nuku Hiva,
we had the easiest, quickest, cheapest, and most friendly clear-in
to date. It took us 10 minutes to fill out a Customs declaration
and cost us 50 cents to send it to Papeete. Three months later
in Bora Bora, we again had to spend 10 minutes and 50 cents.
We were never required to post a bond, and were never hassled
in any port along the way. Most of the cruisers we spoke to had
similar experiences. Those who arrived without visas did have
to post bond, but were granted three months on the spot.
We had hoped to spend cyclone season working in Pago Pago, American
Samoa, but were disappointed by what we found upon arrival. The
wages are low, the harbor is only pretty from a long distance,
and the bulk of the resident cruising boats seem to be there
out of necessity rather than choice - and will probably never
leave. So we escaped for New Zealand before the Waterdragon
could be sucked into the Pago Pago vortex. The place did have
one redeeming quality - the U.S. Postal Service. Taryn's mom
has kept up the subscription to Latitude that we gave
her when we left, and the last 10 issues of Latitude were
waiting for us there. That alone made huffing tuna cannery fumes
bearable for a week.
Our passage to Vava'u, Tonga, was rough. Our passage from Vavu'a
to North Minerva Reef was even rougher, including 34 hours hove-to
in near gale and gale force winds. Minerva is one of those places
that you would not believe existed if you didn't have a sailboat
to take you there. Our stop at Minerva reminded us why we left
to go cruising in the first place.
Minerva is in Tongan waters, which turned out to be good for
us, as the day we pulled in there was a Tongan Navy vessel anchored
there. I dinghied over, said hello, and asked if they might sell
us some diesel. The chief mate asked how much I needed. I told
him 30 liters. He looked at me strangely and then asked, "Three
zero liters?" I nodded, and he laughed. He told me I could
have 30 liters for free. I guess they use that much just warming
up the engines.
Getting this fuel saved me on the home front, because the night
before Taryn and I had had a bit of a 'discussion' regarding
my desire to motor. The wind had gone light, but was still on
our nose. Since we'd already spent five days and nights covering
just 400 miles, I had no interest in spending another one at
sea with just 45 miles to go to Minerva. Needless to say, I turned
on the engine. But with the leftover slop, I could only make
Taryn woke up and asked me what the #%&!*# I was doing wasting
fuel when we were still so close to the tropics. She said if
we were going to get caught in a gale - which was highly probable
on the 1,200-mile passage to New Zealand - she'd rather it happen
in the tropics where it was warm. Since we only carry 34 gallons,
I guess she had a point. Nonetheless, I paid her no mind, and
motored the rest of the way to Minerva.
We arrived in New Zealand after an 8.5-day passage of calms and
headwinds with just 12 liters of diesel in our tank. So I guess
it was lucky I'd been able to buy the 30 liters at Minerva. This
is especially true because a few days after our arrival it blew
50 knots in Opua, and we met a boat that had been knocked down
during the storm offshore and suffered a lot of damage. So thanks
to the Tongan Navy, Taryn and I are still happily together planning
the next leg of our adventure.
Dragon's 'Best Of' List: Best surfing destination - San
Cristobal, Galapagos. Best dive stops - Fakarava Atoll in the
Tuamotus, and North Minerva Reef. Best stop - Suwarrow Atoll,
Cook Islands. Best sailing destination - Tuamotus.
- graham 12/05/04
La Puerta - Malö 41
Richard Stone & Friends
We all know that snowbirds are the folks from the frigid parts
of the U.S. and Canada who head to Florida or Arizona in the
winter to escape frigid winters. Richard Stone describes himself
as an 'anti-snowbird', because when winter comes, he leaves his
home in Tucson. Of course, he doesn't leave for Michigan or Manitoba,
but rather for his boat in the Caribbean, where it's even warmer
than in Arizona.
Although Stone has lived in Tucson - which he loves - for the
last seven years, he'd previously resided in the Bay Area for
25 years. In the early '70s, he lived aboard the 36-ft gaff schooner
Najaz in both Sausalito and San Rafael. He says living
in San Rafael was even better than hip Sausalito, because a neighboring
boat was Dino Valenti's lovely 65-ft schooner Brigadoon.
Since Valenti was the lead singer in the terrific rock group
Quicksilver Messenger Service, there were often interesting people
around and fun things going on.
After co-founding and working in an environmental consulting
business in Tucson for a number of years, Stone ultimately sold
out his interest and is now retired doing his anti-snowbird thing.
He's able to offset many of his winter cruising expenses by renting
out his home in Tucson to snowbirds. Sometimes the tenants are
professional baseball players who come down to get in shape for
the season and for Cactus League play. With his home producing
income, Stone can relax and cruise the Caribbean with his sweetheart
Back in 2000 - when the dollar was worth about 35% more against
the euro - Stone ordered a Swedish-built Malö 41 sloop.
During the next eight months, he flew to Sweden three times to
oversee construction and make various decisions - such as picking
the single mahogany log from which the entire flawless interior
woodwork was made. He and Kareena ultimately took delivery of
the dark-hulled beauty at Port Grimaud - a winch handle's toss
from St. Tropez - in February of 2001.
The couple anticipated a terrific summer of sailing the Med -
but were badly disappointed. "We were looking forward to
a great sailing experience, but hadn't realized how inconsistent
the wind is in the Med," admits Stone. Sure, the couple
thought places such as Barcelona, Mallorca, and Ibiza were wonderful,
but the lack of good sailing was a major letdown. And that wasn't
all. "When we got to Italy, the boat boys made life extremely
frustrating. We felt as though we had to continually watch our
asses, and that really took all the fun out of it."
So in November of 2001, Stone, Kareena's grown son Jason, and
another fellow set sail across the Atlantic for the Caribbean.
There were good signs from the outset. "I saw a right whale
on December 31, which is my birthday," says Stone. "The
next day was Jason's birthday, and he saw a right whale on that
day, too." Although it was just the three of them, they
sailed aggressively, and had a great trip. "La Puerta
is a slippery boat, so we made the 2,800 miles to Antigua in
For the last three summer seasons, Richard and Kareena have cruised
their boat up and down the Eastern Caribbean. Typically they'd
start down south in Grenada, work their way up to the Virgins,
then cruise back down to Grenada to put the boat into storage
for the summer. "We love St. Barth and the south end of
Barbuda, and the Tobago Cays in the Grenadines are to die for.
And both Antigua and St. Martin are good places to get boat work
Last summer, Stone took a major risk by leaving his boat in English
Harbor, Antigua, during the hurricane season. He did this in
part because Kareena's son Jason was there, having taken over
the old Colombo's restaurant in English Harbor and reopening
it as the Calabash. It's doing very well, thank you. But because
La Puerta was left in the so-called hurricane zone, the
Alliance insurance policy was invalid. So what happened? Not
a single hurricane came near Antigua, but Ivan decimated Grenada,
which is outside of the supposed 'hurricane zone' and hadn't
been hit in 150 years. The folks at Alliance told Stone that
almost all the boats they insured were in Grenada, because the
insurance was valid there, and all but about 20 of them suffered
major damage or were totalled.
Let's see, Stone's been on the right side of currency fluctuations
and hurricanes, so he must be doing something right. Maybe it's
retirement. Many folks who retire at a relatively young age complain
that they become bored and lose their passion for living. It
hasn't been that way at all for Stone, who retired in '01. "I
love being retired! It means I don't have to know what day it
is, and I get all the time I want to sail and read. You have
to remember that just because you're retired doesn't mean you're
not going to do anything. Kareena and I are very active. In addition
to all the many things we do, we try to get in at least 45 minutes
of snorkeling a day to keep fit."
We asked Stone if he was recommending that everybody retire and
go cruising. "Absolutely!" he responded with a laugh.
"Everyone should quit work and cruise - it's wonderful."
Since they are retired, Richard and Kareena have plenty of time
to have friends come with them. For example, when we met them
in St. Barth, they were sailing with Dennis Hamilton and Diane
Hamilton. Why so many Hamiltons? "My sweetheart Kareena
used to be married to Dennis, who is now married to Diane, but
we all get along very well." We're from Marin, so we weren't
Richard and Kareena's future sailing plans surprised us. "Having
spent three winters in the Caribbean, we've figured we've pretty
much done this area for awhile, so we're thinking of sailing
back to the Med this summer. It's true that we didn't like it
the first time, but this time we'll know what to expect and won't
No matter where they go, they'll be taking their cool new 10-ft
Carib dinghy, which is canary yellow. The distinctive color supposedly
will make it less attractive to dinghy thieves. In a sense, Stone
'stole' it himself, paying only $1,800 for the hard-bottom beauty
in the Caribbean.
- latitude/rs 01/08/05
No news has not been good news. Mexico's President Fox made a
promise last fall that mariners would only have to check in and
out of Mexico, but no longer when just going from one Mexican
port to another. Such a change has been much awaited as the current
system is a tremendous waste of cruisers' time and money. Alas,
as of our going to press in the third week in January, there
has been no change. Furthermore, inconsistancies persist between
different ports. For example, if you clear in or out of Nuevo
Vallarta, you're not required to use a ship's agent to handle
your paperwork, but at Puerto Vallarta, which is just five miles
away, you must use an agent. While many folks are happy to use
agents, their fees can sometimes double the already high cost
of clearing. So pray for change!
With all the various high-powered water-taxis, jet skis, dinghies
and other craft buzzing around Cabo San Lucas Bay without any
safety rules being enforced, it was just a matter of time before
someone got killed. And according to Jim Elfers, it happened
at 9 p.m. on January 18, when two Americans were involved in
a serious boating accident. As we went to press, we were unable
to find out what kind of accident it was, but it claimed the
life of Richard Deniston of Brinton, Colorado. Deniston's 18-year-old
son was injured, but survived. Please be careful out there, particularly
with or around vessels that can travel at high speeds.
Given the fact that most people won't slow down in dinghies,
pangas, and jet skis, the next two items should be noted carefully:
"Before leaving on this years Ha-Ha, I wanted to take an
advanced First Aid class," reports Audrey Schnell of Oz.
"I had difficulty finding one until I came across the Medicine
At Sea class taught by Dr. John Murphy of the Maritime Medicine
Training Institute. I can highly recommend the class. There isn't
much out there between the Red Cross CPR class and a six-month
EMT training course. This one fills the gap."
"In the December story Bad Place To Break Down, you
asked for input about evacuation services," write's Timothy
Vienneau of the Richmond-based Mental Patience. "For
sailors who enjoy spending time under the water as well as sailing
on it, membership in the Divers Alert Network provides emergency
evacuation coordination and coverage, and a host of other benefits,
to assist members who become ill or injured while in remote areas.
The price is very reasonable at $44/year for a family, and covers
both diving and non-diving incidents. For complete information
visit their website at www.diversalertnetwork.org.
"It's a hot and muggy day here in Cartagena, Colombia, where
our 30-ft cat is stern-tied to the dock at Club Nautico,"
report Bruce and April Winship of the Alameda-based Chewbacca.
"It's almost Christmas and we and our daughters, Kendall
and Quincy, are struggling to remember where we stow our 1-ft
tall plastic Christmas tree on such a small cat. Our four years
of cruising have gone by in a blink of an eye. Our girls are
now nearing the preteen years, while we parents are approaching
middle age! But beginning with the Ha-Ha in 2000 - where we were
lucky enough to be thrown together with some knowledgeable cruisers,
many of whose paths we still cross, and many others of whom we
keep up with via email or the cruiser grapevine - it's been an
extraordinarily good four years of cruising. In fact, we're putting
together a summary for the next issue of Latitude. But
don't think we're done, as this year we're heading to the Western
We distinctly remember you folks from 2000 at Turtle Bay, the
first stop of the Ha-Ha. The beach party had just ended, and
you and the then-quite-young girls were struggling to get into
your dink, through the surf, and back to your rather small cruising
cat. It didn't go so well, and the four of you, plus most of
your stuff, got soaked. We remember feeling so sorry for you,
figuring that your cruise was going to end in an eruption of
frustration, possibly before you even made it to Cabo. We're
thrilled that you proved us wrong! But please be careful out
there when leaving Cartagena, as your cat is still relatively
small, and that part of the Caribbean can be pretty nasty.
It's official, advise the folks at the Hidden Port YC at Puerto
Escondido on the Sea of Cortez, there will be a Loreto Fest again
this year! The dates are April 28, 29, 30, and May 1. (Be aware,
this is a correction to an earlier report in Latitude
that the Fest wasn't going to start until the first week in May.)
The status of the Loreto Fest had been in doubt for several months
because starting last fall, and for the first time ever, mariners
were being charged for not just using moorings in Puerto Escondido,
but for even anchoring there or even in the nearby Waiting Room.
Not only were they being charged, the prices are what we consider
to be extremely high. Fortunately, the Hidden Port YC folks have
been able to negotiate a special rate for all boats, no matter
the size, during Loreto Fest - $55 for seven days. We're also
told there will be some anchoring in the 'ellipse', with APR
fees, and some boats will also be able to anchor off Rattlesnake
Beach for free. As always, the event will kick off on Thursday
with the Ham test, and there will be lots of music by cruisers.
The Hidden Port YC folks are looking for committee people for
all the various aspects of the event, and advise that it would
be helpful to them if they could get some idea of how many people
might attend. So it would be greatly appreciated if you could
take a minute to RSVP to www.hiddenportyachtclub.com.
This has been a much-loved cruiser event for many years, so we
hope it can thrive despite the current adversity. After all,
the big winners have always been the local schools and other
Here are some other dates to remember in the tropics:
February 3-8, Carnival in Mazatlan. Nobody does Carnival in Mexico
like Mazatlan, so you don't want to miss it.
February 28, Paradise Marina, Pacific Puddle Jump Party, for
those going across this year only, sponsored by Latitude
and Paradise Marina. (Check out the report early in Changes
from Waterdragon on how the officials in French Polynesia
have become soooo much nicer to U.S. cruisers.)
March 11, Banderas Bay, Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Cup. Everyone
gets to dress up like pirates and wenches for the 12-mile spinny
run from Punta de Mita to Nuevo Vallarta, and all to raise money
to support the local schools. Bring your own boat or jump on
one of the big cats. We hope to have at least 40 folks on Profligate
March 12-15, the 13th Annual Banderas Bay Regatta. This is not-too-serious
racing for cruisers in an idyllic environment with wonderful
conditions - and a heck of a lot of fun. Entry is free, and it
gets you a 50% discount on berths at Paradise Marina. We'll be
there - and hope you will be, too.
For folks lucky enough to be sailing in the Caribbean, there
are many great events, but here are the biggest dates for sailors:
February 3-8, Carnival in Trinidad, the second biggest Carnival
in the world after Rio, but many say it's the best. Having seen
Port of Spain in full Carnival splendor, we believe it. The minute
one year's Carnival is over, the Trinis start preparing for the
next one. There are also many lesser Carnival celebrations throughout
March 4-6, the 25th Annual Heineken Regatta in St. Martin. The
racing ranges from just-for-fun to hard-core depending on what
class you're in, but the drinking, dancing, and partying are
all extreme. In addition to the crews of the 235 or so boats,
the whole island gets into it. Jimmy 'The Harder They Come' Cliff
headlines this year's entertainment.
April 14-19, Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, in Antigua. A very
classy event for the world's most classic yachts. Go to www.antiguaclassics.com
and check out the photo galleries, and you'll know why you have
to do this at least once in your life. Spectacular!
April 24-May 30, Antigua Sailing Week, Antigua. This is the granddaddy
of all big sailing events in the Caribbean, and remains the standard
for having a great time sailing in great conditions. Unlike the
three-day Heinie, this is a week-long enduro - 'Ouch, my liver!'
- so no wonder it marks the end of the season in the Caribbean.
"Charlie's Charts and John Rains' Mexico Boating
Guide both have reliable information for the anchorages and
marinas in Mexico that we've been in," write Bill and Cynthia
Noonan of the Half Moon Bay-based Island Packet 380 Crème
Brûlée, "but both guides are way off with
respect to the welcome you'll receive at the Acapulco YC. The
only other berthing option is Marina de Acapulco, which has been
badly-damaged by storms, has docks in very poor condition, and
is without power and water. Maybe the Acapulco YC welcomes John
Rains delivering a megayacht and recording his experiences for
the next edition of his cruising guide, but Joe Schmoe sailors-on-the-move
like us get quite different treatment. We arrived in Acapulco
Bay after a 20-hour passage from Zihuatanejo, having tried to
contact the club by phone for two days to reserve a slip. Nobody
answered the phone. We repeatedly called by VHF the morning we
arrived, kept getting put off, and were finally told to anchor.
Anchoring was tricky, as it was among derelict boats, many on
moorings, and the water was 60 feet deep with the bottom covered
in garbage. We were miffed, but thought we could handle it for
four hours until we could see the club's Harbormaster. When we
dinghied in at noon, he told us there were no available slips.
We told him that we were disappointed, but as we were members
of a reciprocating yacht club, we would like to have access to
the club's facilities after a long passage. He told us to come
back late that afternoon. When we did, he said he would handle
guest privileges the next day, but would start the 10-minute
checking-in formalities right then. The next day he completed
our check in/out, which went smoothly. When I asked again about
access to the club, he reluctantly gave us crew cards good for
that day at a cost of 242 pesos - or about $22. The joke was
on us, as the club is closed on that day! As for the cost of
checking in/out, plus IVA tax, plus privileges, it came to nearly
$90 U.S. Our conclusion is that the Acapulco YC does not welcome
transient cruisers. In all other Mexican marinas we've been to,
the boats' homeports were all faraway places. But at the Acapulco
YC, almost all the boats are from Acapulco - the few exceptions
being megayachts that obviously bring in big bucks to the club's
treasury. It's obvious that the marina is tight on space, however
it wouldn't be a big deal for them to place five or six moorings
out for visitors, even if they cost $20-$30/night - use of the
facilities included. Acapulco is the only bad experience we've
had in Mexico, starting all the way from San Diego. Our recommendation?
Pull into Bahia de Marquez, about six miles to the south, and
anchor there without having to check in at all."
Our experience with the Acapulco YC - over a period of about
25 years and twice in the last two years - is that they, like
all the big clubs in big cities in the U.S., are woefully short
of berthing. In addition, the Acapulco YC is and has always been
the one and only yacht club of Mexico's wealthy and ultra wealthy,
and its members pay $50,000 U.S. to join. As such, you might
understand that the club's number one priority is not finding
transient space for the hundreds of cruising boats that come
down from the States, but finding space for members' boats. And
yes, as is the case with many of the major yacht clubs around
the world, particularly in the Third World, who you are and what
boat you have does make a big difference.
Having said all that, we've always found the staff of the Acapulco
YC - the three honchos of which have all worked there for nearly
40 years - to be extremely pleasant - although not 'cruiser casual'.
And that if we were to treat them with deference and respect,
and anchored out for a couple of days - we've dropped the hook
in worse places - they might eventually find a slip that opened
up for a day or two. It's our impression that the harbormaster
has an impossible job of trying to fit everybody in, but does
the best that he can. As for the $22/person day user fee, it's
clearly stated on their website. We've never spent more than
a few days at the Acapulco YC, but we've always found it to be
an enjoyable oasis in a very large and exciting city. And maybe
it's because we bought lunch and a couple of drinks at the bar,
but we've never assessed the day fee for spending our days around
the club and hanging out at the pool. We're sorry your experience
wasn't as good, and appreciate your identifying another option
for cruisers when in the Acapulco area.
A couple of months ago, Garth Jones of the Mulege and San Carlos-based
sailboat Inclination, and Ken Holmes of the San Diego
and San Carlos-based sailboat Antares, claimed to have
caught a 300+ pound marlin from a 14-ft skiff off San Carlos,
Mexico. How could we possibly believe such a fish story when
the photo they sent wouldn't open up in our email? See the new
photo on this page for the reason that we now believe!
"Fear of pirates in the Caribbean?" ask Randy and Lourae
Kenoffel of the San Francisco-based Moorings 500 Pizazz,
who have been cruising the Caribbean for many years now. "It's
been over four years since we last cruised the Colombia coast,
but in that time we would guess that over 100 boats have travelled
east to west, and probably another dozen have gone east each
year. Does the fact that three boats have had serious problems
with armed pirates in the last two years make that coast unsafe
for cruisers? Is it unsafe to live in Oakland when someone gets
murdered nearly every day?"
"Since we returned to the Caribbean in July of 2004,"
the couple continue, "we have had two dozen boats come by
and thank us for providing them with information about the Colombian
coast so they could make their own decision about whether to
use that route. They all said they had enjoyed the few stops
they made, and didn't know of any cruisers who stopped having
had problems. We don't feel that any one person - or Latitude
38 - can say that Colombia is not safe based upon a few incidents.
Yes, there are always areas of Colombia that cruisers should
avoid - Barranquilla/Rio Magdelena has always been one of those,
as even the Colombians don't stop there."
"Maybe we are the 'fools', the Kenoffel's go on, "who
wrote some information and gave other 'fools' the impression
that Colombia is an OK place. We'll say it again, that everybody
should make their own decision whether to transit the coast of
Colombia. And no, we are not saying that Colombia is entirely
safe. But there are also many boats that arrive in Cartagena
with blown sails, broken booms, and serious boat problems. If
they had been aware of places they could have stopped along the
coast to rest or make repairs, maybe the damage wouldn't have
been as great. We think the weather, not pirates, is the biggest
problem along the coast of Colombia. There are a few times during
the year where there commonly are weather windows - late April
to early June, and September until the end of October. Cruisers
should use those weather windows."
We don't think we ever accused you of being "fools"
for sharing your helpful knowledge about the coast of Colombia,
but we do think the security situation is different now than
when you wrote it. Three serious incidents with guns in two years
when only a relatively small number of boats transited that coast?
It may not seem like a large number for you, but that and the
history of the region are enough to make us seek other options.
Indeed, it's for that reason we avoid certain parts of Oakland
- and other California cities with violent reputations. But we
agree, once they have the facts, it's up to each person to make
We agree that for most cruisers, the weather along the coast
of Colombia will normally be a bigger threat than pirates. As
for weather windows, the percentages are higher in some months
than in others, but we might disagree with you about which months
those are. When Profligate went eastward across the Caribbean,
meaning into the wind and seas, in December of 2003, when you
suggest there won't be weather windows, the conditions were much
milder than when we sailed westward with the wind and seas across
the Caribbean in early May of 2004, when you say there should
be a window. Indeed, we don't believe any cruising boat could
have made any progress going east early last May.
"Everyone should know that the cruisers in Bahia Caraquez,
Ecuador, got together a few times and shared information on their
inland travel and cruising in Panama," writes Joe Scirica
and Pipsqueak the ship's cat of the Redondo Beach-based Beneteau
40 CC Music, which is currently in Balboa, Panama. "Here
in Panama, there have been groups of cruisers sharing information
on Ecuador, the Galapagos, and the Darien Jungle region of Panama.
Mary Heeney of the San Francisco-based Passport 42 Ace
has put together a very comprehensive document called Beyond
Panama. And Marsha of She Wolf has assembled a lot
of information based on their extensive travel in and around
Ecuador. What a great group to be cruising with!" We'll
have a more detailed report on the last two year's of Scirica's
cruising, which saw him travel from Central America down to Ecuador,
then out to the Galapagos in company with John Kelley and Linda
Keigher of the Seattle-based Sirena 38 Hawkeye, then back
to Panama. It's really amazing, because the whole business of
stopping at Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua really didn't
start until about three or four years ago. As for the reported
paradise of Bahia de Caraquez, which is said to be the ideal
base for explorations in Ecuador and Peru, that's only been popular
the last year or two.
"Joan and I haven't written in a while because we've been
doing things like going to the dentist every few days to take
care of teeth problems we've neglected," writes Blair Grinols
of the Vallejo-based 46-ft catamaran Capricorn Cat. I
had to have two bridges replaced, so I didn't get home from the
dentist until 10 p.m. last night. I needed some gum surgery,
too, and also had to have a root canal done on the tooth that
holds the bridge. Joan had a tooth go bad that held a bridge,
so the bridge had to be removed and the tooth pulled. Now she
has to have a new bridge made. Going to the dentist is never
good news, but listen to these prices. We were charged $26 for
my surgery and $26 for my extraction. It was $263 for each of
my bridges, and $162 for a three-root root canal. Joan's bridge
will probably cost a little more since it's more complicated.
Nonetheless, the money we will save by having the work done down
here versus up in the States will pay for this year's season
of cruising in Mexico."
"Greetings from Nevis in the Eastern Caribbean," write
Jim and Jamie Casey, who chartered a Beneteau 473 from Sunsail
Yachts. "We spent a week in the Virgins, then continued
on to St. Martin and St. Barth before coming to Nevis. It was
here that we had a rendezvous with friends Ken and Nancy Burnap
of the Santa Cruz-based Super Maramu 53 Notre Vie. They
arrived in Antigua last week after sailing across the Atlantic
from the Canary Islands. We're having a great time on Nevis,
hiking the volcano, tasting the French wines, and chasing
down fresh baguettes. We're looking forward to Christmas at Majors
Bay in St. Kitts and hiking through the petroglyphs in Bloody
Gulch. The latter is where the Brits and French showed a singular cooperative
spirit in wiping out the last of the Carib Indians on St. Kitts
- just three years after the first whites arrived. We'll be looking
for you guys in St. Barth on our way back to dropping off our
boat in St. Martin."
The cruising season is in full swing in
both Mexico and the Caribbean, so we'd love
to get short reports from all of you. Please don't forget
to include your full name and a couple of .