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February 2011

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With reports this month from Fleetwood on a 64-lock crossing of Europe; from Po'oino Roa on the Sail Malaysia Rally; from Azure, on Italy and having the boat winter there; from Jake, on spending the summer in the Sea of Cortez; from Sarah Miller on the second leg of her trip to Panama; from Someday, on a mellow daysail off Panama; from Moonshadow on the completion of a circumnavigation; and Cruise Notes.

Fleetwood — Naja 30
Jack van Ommen
Cruising East Across Europe
(Gig Harbor, WA / The World)

My plan to take Fleetwood 2,000 miles eastward across Europe to the Black Sea by rivers and canals turned out to be a bigger challenge than I had anticipated. The adverse current on the river Main, for example, made it a slow struggle, particularly with my 30-year-old Renault diesel faltering. In addition, the locks — unlike those in France — were treacherous and difficult to handle. While I may now have a line in the record books for singlehandling east across the European continent, it would have been nice to have another set of hands when going through the locks. The result is that Fleetwood is bruised and battered, and there will be plenty of maintenance to do on her when I return in April or May.

But the trip was worth all the pitfalls. Who could have dreamed that I would see fabulous sites such as Budapest, Bratislava, Passau, Nuremberg, Novi Sad and many others from my ocean-going boat? But the best memories are of the people I met and the good friends I made along the way. In this sense, it was no different than any of the 40+ other countries I have visited with Fleetwood since I departed Santa Barbara in early '05.

The last time I sent a 'Where is Jack?' email was September 7, and my closing sentence read, "Keep me and my boat's tired 30-year-old Renault diesel in your prayers." Well, you either did not take me seriously, don't believe in prayer, or need to brush up on your relationship with the Lord. For just three days after my plea, my Renault suffered a serious stroke as I was entering the last of the 64 locks in my journey across Europe.

On 9/11, I limped into Calafat, Romania, on just one lung. I waited for spare parts, got the engine running again, then set off once more on October 1. But I had to turn back to Calafat and order a new engine from Holland, as the old Renault was just no longer capable. By the time the new engine was installed, I had missed the weather window to avoid the fog and winter storms of the Black Sea, and had to change my plan of sailing past the Bosphorus to winter in southern Turkey. So Fleetwood now sits high and dry at Zimnicea, Romania, on the banks of the Danube, and far from the ocean.

My plan was to sail the Med this summer, then head for Cartagena, Colombia in the winter. That will be my base for exploring South America. Those plans will now have to be pushed back, of course. But time is cheap when you're retired, and I'll still have another six years to complete my circumnavigation before my self-imposed deadline of my 80th birthday.

— jack 12/12/10

Po'oino Roa — Peterson 44
Jerry and Kathy McGraw
The Sail Malaysia Rally
(Newport Beach)

We read the report in Latitude, by John and Renee Prentice of the San Diego-based Serendipity 43 Scarlett O'Hara, on the Sail Indonesia Rally. Having also participated in that event, we're in complete agreement with their assessment. The rally served the purpose of keeping us from having to avoid a bond, but the fact that the rally was 'organized' by non-cruisers — actually, non-sailors — resulted in many frustrations. We'd done the '04 Ha-Ha, and wondered where the Grand Poobah was when we needed him.

Our report this month is on the Sail Malaysia Rally, which is a completely separate event from Sail Indonesia. It takes participants on what would be the normal cruising route after leaving Indonesia at the onset of the seasonal monsoon. As Malaysia is known to be very yacht-friendly in the first place, Sail Malyasia's big draw was three weeks of free dockage at the Danga Bay Marina at Johor Bahru, which is at the southern part of Peninsular Malaysia just across the way from Singapore. In fact, this is where the rally would start from.

We arrived at Danga Bay Marina, along with our sometime buddyboat Scarlett, in time to enjoy the full three weeks of free berthing. Our having covered almost 4,500 miles in the previous seven months, a lengthy stay in a marina was a nice change of pace for us. Once in Danga Bay, however, we discovered that all the marina slips were free to anyone who wanted to use them! So all we got from rally participation was the guarantee of a free slip. Checking into Malaysia was simple, with transportation provided. In fact, our driver did most of the running around to deliver the various papers to the various officials.

Johor Bahru is a large and modern city, a big change from what we'd seen in Indonesia. Using the excellent bus system, supplemented with some taxis, we located repair parts and found all the provisions we hadn't seen since Darwin. We were also able to sign up for a dongle-based broadband internet connection for about $22/month that would work throughout Malaysia. Finally, 'Lectronic Latitude and online Latitudes again!

Sail Malaysia proved to be a bit of a free-form rally. For after the kick-off dinner, there were just three scheduled stops, each with festivities and tours, prior to the rally's conclusion at Langkawi, just south of the border with Thailand. We had almost six weeks to cover the 475 miles from start to finish.

The route took us north through the Strait of Malacca, which for centuries had been synonomous with piracy. Today it's one of the busiest commercial shipping channels in the world. The main ship traffic moves in two designated lanes, one northbound and one southbound. There is a third inshore traffic lane for smaller ships and tugs towing barges, although fishing is also allowed inside that lane.

While underway, it was not uncommon for us to see up to 15 large ships, a couple of tugs towing one or two barges, and 50 or more fishing boats up to 60 feet in length. Most of the fishing fleet disappeared at night. This didn't mean they had gone anywhere, but rather that they didn't use any lights — unless they were approached by another vessel. The fishing fleet uses both drift and trawl nets, so you really need to keep a constant watch. They also pay no attention to the international rules of the road. As a result, Kathy and I decided to travel only during the day, which meant we visited a lot more anchorages than most other boats in the rally.

After a big official dinner party on Halloween night to kick the rally off, the fleet headed to the historic city of Melaka, a last-minute addition to the itinerary. Having had three weeks of non-stop marina activity, Kathy and I decided we'd rather just relax on the hook at an offshore island. Folks who did make the stop reported that the marina was a bit suspect. A big problem in this part of the world is that while they build fine marinas, they are often built in places that don't offer the best protection from the prevailing weather. Furthermore, Malaysians are known for doing a poor job of maintaining anything.

Our next stop was Pangkor Island Marina, another new marina development. We were not only given three nights of free berthing, but they also provided someone to fill our fuel jugs. For the record, there are no fuel docks in this part of the world. In addition to a bus trip to the local supermarket for provisioning, we enjoyed a one-day tour of the sights of Pangkor Island, and finished it up with a hosted dinner and beer bar.

Our last intermediate stop was at George Town, Penang, another island off the coast of Malaysia. There were land tours of the city, which was founded in the late 1700s, and another excellent dinner. In fact, we began to wonder if the rally should be retitled Feast Malaysia rather than Sail Malyasia. Indeed, the winds had been mostly less than 10 knots and very nearly on the nose. As a result, we did a lot of motorsailing.

I'm writing this shortly after we arrived at Langkawi, which is the end of the rally, and after a final gala dinner. Kathy enjoyed this rally much more than the Sail Indonesia one, as things were better organized and there was better communication between the rally staff and the participants. Still, we're eager to resume the more relaxed lifestyle of independent cruisers.

So far, we've found Malaysia to be a friendly cruising ground with easy and inexpensive provisioning. Fuel averages about $2.40/gal. Our biggest disappointment has been the lack of clear water for snorkeling. It's not that the water is dirty, it's just not crystal clear. But it's gotten better the closer we've gotten to Langkawi, and we're told it's much better up just a few miles north in Thailand. We've also been a bit disappointed in the lack of favorable sailing winds. Nonetheless, we plan to stay in this part of the world for a few years to enjoy all the wonders Southeast Asia is said to offer.

— jerrry 12/15/10

Azure — Leopard 47
The Pimental Family
Med Mid-Cruise Review

Over a year has zoomed by since our family began the adventure of sailing the Caribbean and the Med, something we'd been planning for 10 years. It may not be everyone's dream. In fact, when you experience nasty weather, broken boat systems and sick kids all at the same time, it's more like a crazy challenge. But it's all about the journey. And doing things like swimming with turtles, kayaking with dolphins, and gazing at skies full of stars has been awe-inspiring. We're grateful to have the opportunity to travel and experience these memorable moments as a family.

Here are the answers to some of the questions we get asked the most:

What do you do all day? Typically, we snorkel, hike, home-school, and fix stuff. And/or we see the sites, trek to grocery stores, and figure out where we are and where we want to go next. From time to time we also host family and friends, and socialize with other sailors. Like many cruisers, we're anchored a lot more than we're sailing.

What's been the biggest surprise? That the boys, Leo and R.J, haven't been homesick and haven't missed television. The latter comes with a caveat, for when they see television, they miss it again. Hmmmm.

What's been the scariest part? Dragging anchor in 30 knots of wind at 3 a.m. at St. Martin in the West Indies.

How far have you sailed and where have you been? We've sailed 6,000 miles, explored 17 territories/countries, and stopped at 70 anchorages.

What have been your favorite places? The Columbia anchorage at St. Barth, French West Indies, a real turtle haven. The British Virgins, which has so many anchorages, rocks and other wonders. Horta in the Azores, which has European Old World charm. And Italy. What's not to like in Italy?

What have been the best parts of the trip? The spontaneity of it all, nature, and sharing our journey with others. And we've been so lucky to have had phenomenal support along the way, including hand-delivery of boat parts, volunteer labor, and help crewing, as well as all the encouraging notes and letters.

Where is Azure now? She's currently at Vibo Valentia, Italy. It's cold there in the winter, so we're currently warm and cozy at Uncle Jimmy's at Three Rivers up in the Delta.

What's next? On March 2, we return to Azure to begin a summer of cruising in Greece and Turkey. We'll return home in August in time for RJ to start the 8th grade and Leo to start the 6th grade.

Do you spend all your time on the cat? No. For instance, toward the end of the summer we spent 2.5 weeks touring Italy. We got a great tour of the marble quarries of Carrara, where the marble for works such as Michaelangelo's 'David' came from. We also spent a lot of time in Lucca, a pedestrian-friendly town 45 minutes from Florence, where Rodney's grandmother had been born. It has a four-mile surrounding wall that took only about 1,500 years to finish. Today the wall is a popular running, biking and walking path. Within the walls is a quaint Italian village with shops, restaurants, cafes and minimal car traffic.

Lucca was our jumping off point for a variety of day trips. We went to Pisa, where the tower was interesting, but not worth $20+ to climb. We also traveled to Cinque Terre, five small towns accessible by only trails, boats and in some cases trains. Our other days in Lucca were spent homeschooling, biking around the wall, playing in the park, shopping, cooking, climbing towers and so forth.

— the pimentels 12/05/10

Jake — Hunter Legend 45
Jake and Sharon Howard
Summer in the Sea, Part Two

[Editor's note: The Howards have spent the last three summers in the Sea of Cortez, and will be spending a fourth there this summer. This is Part Two of their tips to enjoying a summer in the Sea.]

For cruisers considering a summer in the Sea, Jake says it’s critically important that their boats have plenty of shade. “You’d probably want a dodger-bimini combination of some sort, as well as side curtains and maybe a boom tent. I can't overemphasize the importance of plenty of shade. You also want to have plenty of 12-volt fans, including ones that you can move out into the cockpit.”

As one might expect, refrigeration is a highly prized commodity in the Sea. “Like a lot of cruisers, we thought our cold-plate refrigeration and freezer system — which worked so well in the Pacific Northwest — would be just fine in Mexico. Well, it wasn't, as it required too much power to keep things cool. Our solution was to buy two Australian-made Engel stand-alone refrigerator/freezer units. We use the small one as a freezer and the larger one as a refrigerator. They are very energy efficient.”

The Howards have four 130-watt solar panels mounted on an arch over the transom of their boat to provide green power. “As long as it’s sunny, which it usually is in the Sea, we can run our refrigeration, freezer, fans, watermakers, computers — all that stuff — without having to turn the boat's diesel on to charge the batteries."

And if you need boat gear that can only be found in the U.S., it's not that hard to travel to the States. Twice last summer Jake and Sharon took a bus from the Bahia de Los Angeles area south to Loreto, where they rented a Euro Car to drive north to San Diego and back. It sounds expensive, but even with the insurance included, it only cost $90 — or about the same as two bus tickets. And it would have been tough carrying a bunch of replacement batteries on a bus. “It’s actually a wonderful drive,” says Jake.

Everyone has favorite spots in the Sea, including the Howards. For Jake and Sharon, the spots include Isla San Franciso, Agua Verde, Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante, V Cove on Isla Carmen, and Animas Slot in Animas Bay just to the south of Bahia de Los Angeles. Unlike some cruisers, the Howards stick to known anchorages or ones they’ve been told about. “We think Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer's guide to the Sea of Cortez is the gold standard."

Because there are fewer places to spend money in the Sea, the Howards find their cruising budget is about a third less than on the mainland. Making a guess off the top of his head, Jack figures that he and Sharon spend about $3,000/month on the mainland versus $2,000/month in the Sea, everything included.

The Howards find there is plenty to do in the Sea in the summer. Sharon loves cruising because it affords her the opportunity to simply relax after many years of teaching special education children how to read. Solitaire and sudoku bring her a lot of pleasure, but she also likes to swim, snorkel, hike, read, watch movies, participate in potlucks, and simply appreciate nature.

And there is plenty of nature in the Sea to enjoy, both above and below the surface. “We always complained that we’d never seen a whale shark,” says Jake, “but while at the first full moon party we saw one swimming between the boats. I got my mask and snorkel on and jumped in. All of a sudden there was this giant creature with a five-foot-wide mouth swimming right at me! Even though whale sharks are very gentle, I got a real charge from it.”

The Sea of Cortez is also known for Humboldt or diablo squid, which are extremely intelligent, and will work in teams to attack, but also engage in cannibalism. “They are very nasty,” laughs Jake, “but they taste delicious. Although they grow to about six feet in length and 150 pounds, a friend of ours found 30 smaller ones that had beached themselves at Sweet Pea Cove, and shared the bounty with us. Yum.”

Like a lot of cruisers in all of Mexico, Jake and Sharon have some family members who fear for their safety because they are in Mexico. “One sister keeps asking me if I’m aware of the dangers," Jake laughs, "as she's sure we’re going to be assassinated. In our three years in Mexico, we’ve only had one incident — although it was pretty exciting. It happened down in Barra two years ago after we tied our dinghy up at the Sands Hotel and came around to the street out front. We saw a guy in full body armor shooting at somebody in an upper level hotel room. At first we thought it was a movie, but people yelled at us to get back behind cover. It turned out to be a single druggie guy, and the police killed him. But that’s been it. We always feel safe in Mexico.”

Do Jake and Sharon ever miss Seattle and the States? “Oh yeah!” says Jake. “At the beginning of every April we go home for four days to see friends and the doctors, and pick up stuff for the boat.” Four days a year? If that isn’t damning with faint praise, we don’t know what is.

When we spoke with Jake late last year, he and Sharon were wrapping up the paperwork to get their FM3 visas before heading as far south as Zihua, and then back up to the Sea for the summer. Among other things, the FM3 visas give them the ability to sign up for Mexican IMSS health insurance, which runs about $350 a person — per year! But they're not opportunists.

“We now think of Mexico as our home,” says Jake. “I don’t see Sharon or me ever wanting to return to the States.” It’s not an uncommon sentiment among the cruisers we’ve talked to this season.

— latitude/rs 11/15/10

Knotta Afreighter Nothin’
Sarah Miller
Zihua To Panama, Part Two

Joining us on Shannon for the trip to Costa Rica was Greg, a 52-year-old bright-eyed and bushy-tailed salesman from Sacramento who was looking for a little adventure. As we left El Salvador, the four of us all but watched Central America make the dramatic transition from the dry season to the wet season. In just two weeks' time, what had been blue skies filled with little puffy clouds had became ominous dark grey afternoon clouds that filled the air with incredible energy. Like clockwork, the heat lightning would build for several hours each afternoon while storm showers dumped rain in several directions. The storm cells were something to behold, and showering in the rain became a unique pleasure.

I remember one night in particular when, nearing Costa Rica, the radar screen turned completely white from storm cells, and there was lightning all around us. We suddenly realized that we were almost surrounded by three commercial fishing lines. Thanks to a combination of relentless flashes of lightning and intense bioluminescence in the water, it was almost impossible to see the intermittent flashes of the little LCD lights that warned of the fishing lines. As if that weren’t enough, a ship appeared out of the darkness on our starboard quarter. It was so close! A moment later, another freighter appeared out of the dark off the port quarter! Both had their red and green lights showing, or did they? It was too hard to tell. Did I mention that Shannon's stern and steaming lights were out?

I’d wanted adventure, and I was getting it. We followed the original fishing line 10 miles out to sea — as opposed to following it in toward the rocky shore — and that put us in the shipping lanes. It was pretty spooky. Don’t tell anyone, but it was one of my favorite nights of the whole trip. Yes, I got sopping wet, didn’t sleep, and brewed coffee all night long while getting slammed around. But I loved it! And crewmates Mike, Ron and Greg were terrific.

The plume of clouds at sunrise the next morning featured the most magnificent pinks and purples I have ever seen. The clouds were so tall that we strained our necks looking up at the tops. The boys got a chuckle when they noticed I hadn't been in any hurry to take my foul weather gear off from the night before. I felt as though it was my badge of courage, so what was the rush in removing it? Not only that, but we had pancakes for breakfast. I won’t forget that morning as long as I live.

Once we got to Costa Rica, Greg and Ron signed off, to be replaced by Marshall, 32, my friend from Massachusetts, and Leela, 35, a spiritual teacher from Minnesota, neither of whom had any sailing experience. We had to motor all the way to Golfito, so no wonder it's called the Pacific Ocean. While in Golfito, the Land & Sea marine motel became a little home away from home. Owner Katie saved us from being stuck in Costa Rica due to an unexpected holiday that had closed all the official offices. She was able to track down an official and convince him to make a ‘house call’ for a nominal fee.

The walls of this quaint and homey motel boast over 100 pizza pan-sized, hand-painted boat insignias — including one by Liz Clark of the Santa Barbara-based Cal 40 Swell. This was especially funny to me, because when I saw it I was holding the issue of Latitude where Liz described hanging out and singing on stage with Jimmy Buffet in Bora Bora. I added Shannon’s insignia to the wall, but we were off again before the paint had dried. We had two new crew from Santa Barbara, too: Capt Steve, 60, and Miss Casey.

When we got to Panama’s Perlas Islands, we anchored off a nice resort. One night Marshall, Leela and I heard some kids at a campfire speaking a language we didn't recognize. It turned out that they were the cameramen and assistants for a Turkish version of the Survivor reality television show. It has the same format and logos as the U.S. version. The next day, the executive producer of the show came to Mike and asked if a ride on Shannon could be the prize for the winner of that day’s dance contest. Fun-loving Mike said yes, so the next day Shannon was loaded down with camera crews, gaffers, huge coolers, a director, and four of the contestants.

The contestants were beautiful, foreign — and famished! Fortunately, one of the Turks and Marshall had a common language — German — so we were able to communicate. The contestants feverishly told us they hadn’t had real food for a long time, and had had to exist on things like snakes and iguanas cooked with sticks over an open fire. No wonder they’d lost weight. No wonder they devoured every speck of meat in sight! They hadn’t been allowed to take showers either, so you can imagine....

Despite being famished, we all started to dance while a Porsche-like speedboat did circles around us, recording everything while blasting out I’ve Got A Feeling by the Black-Eyed Peas. Mike led the conga line into the water, and we all played 'king of the dinghy' for what seemed like forever. Then as quickly as the Turks had come, they were gone. But two months later the espisode was presented to 30 million viewers in Turkey, and we got to see it on YouTube. How bizarre!

While in Panama, we welcomed aboard Dr. Mike, a 47-year-old surgeon from Chicago, and Gabe, 40, an airline pilot. Unfortunately, Marshall got mugged while walking back to the boat in Panama City. We were all grateful that he wasn’t hurt.

After two days of waiting, we made our Canal transit. I found it thrilling — but we did have a little mishap in the Miraflores Locks. Each lock is 1,050 feet by 110 feet, and the freighter with which we shared the lock was about 650 feet long and 100 feet wide. In other words, it was almost as wide as the lock, and we were 200 feet astern of her. The water gushed into the chamber from the bottom at a surprising rate. It took less than 15 minutes for the water to lift us 53 feet. Then, just as the gates were about to open towards Miraflores Lake, one of the cables securing the ship in the chamber snapped! The ship quickly turned its giant screw full blast for a few seconds to keep from hitting the wall, which sent turbulent water gushing our way.

We just happened to be side-tied on the starboard side to a 50-ft yacht, which was tied to a tugboat on the starboard wall of the chamber. Simultaneously, the other yacht accidentally released our bow line. As a result, our bows headed in opposite directions while our sterns were still tied together. We were not only going to hit the wall of the chamber, but slam into the closed doors at the back of it! There was so much tension on the stern line that we couldn’t release it. Before we had time to cut it, Mike threw the engine into reverse, butting our boat sterns together, allowing us to release the line and return to the center of the chamber. Everyone — including the helpless Canal workers at the edge of the chamber — clapped and cheered. It happened so quickly, but Capt Mike, as usual rose to the occasion. We decided to stay in control of our lines for the rest of the transit.

After the transit, all nine of us boarded planes back to the United States. What a fantastic trip from Puerto Vallarta it had been for me! And the nature! The mama humpback whale, the iguanas in Zihua, the parrots in El Salvador, the toucans in Costa Rica, and the dolphins and turtles all along the way. Back home in Boston, I re-entered the reality of cell phones, appointments, Facebook and online everything. If I can work just eight months a year and travel four, or even work 10 and travel two, that would be perfect. And someday sooner rather than later, I want to do the Puddle Jump. Oh yeah, I want to sail the Med, too. Thanks Latitude!

— sarah 06/15/10

Someday — Gulfstar 41
Bill Nokes
Simple Cruising Pleasures
(Chetco Cove, Oregon)

I'm sitting at the open air resturant/bar of Gone Fishin', a small resort hotel
overlooking the anchorage at Boca Chica, Panama. Life is not just good, it's extraordinary. Over the railing and through the trees and shrubs that make up the landscaping, I can see a large motor yacht, a very small sailboat, and about 12 other cruising sailboats and trawlers of various sizes. Also in the view are two small docks, a large bay, and a plethora of islands in the channel that runs to the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Chirique.

Across the way is an island about 25 miles long, at one end of which is Hotel Boca Brava, another small place with an active restaurant and bar that's popular with backpackers. Its small dock is frequently mobbed by water taxis and yacht dinghies. Someday, my boat, is anchored between where I'm sitting and the Hotel Boca Brava dock.

At daybreak, the sky was nearly clear, with just a few splashes of wispy clouds picking up the early morning hues. Our day started with a double-size cup of coffee, then a bit of tug and fetch with my dog Anna. Then we did some last minute put-away and cleaning to prepare for some people we had invited for a short daysail. Two of the invitees, Leo and his son Charlie, who live in Boca Chica, showed up early. Leo, who speaks excellent English, was the Panamanian boatman who towed Someday in when we had engine problems.

As it turned out, the other two I had invited, Joe and Pam, a couple from upstate New York, had to cancel. She was still feeling the effects of a two-day illness.

Someday's Perkins diesel fired up right away. After anchoring Leo's panga, with my dinghy attached, we weighed anchor and motored out past Isla Boca Brava, Ventana, and too many other places for me to remember. Leo has spent his entire life here, so even though I think I've figured out the unmarked channel, he was the guide, with his 9-year-old son at the wheel. Charlie became capitano for the rest of the trip. 

Once we cleared the rocks at the end of Ventana, we raised sail and killed the engine. The winds were light, so we were proceeding at a placido two to three knots. But it was fun and relaxing. We essentially made a large circle just outside the channel for a couple hours, then sailed back to the entrance. Clouds began to fill in, turning from white fluff to streaks and bundles of grey.

We could have sailed back in, as the wind was from a favorable direction, but I furled the headsail and fired up the diesel. It looked as though it would be easy to sail into the anchorage, but the reality is that there are a lot of curves in the channel — and dangerous rocks that I could have hit with my keel. So I preferred to be able to quickly throw the engine into reverse if the forward-looking sonar indicated any obstructions.

Once back in the anchorage, we tried setting the hook in a different place than from where we had left. I have rarely required even a second try to get a good bite, and never four attempts. But that's what it took this time, as apparently there was a hardpan patch. As a result, we ended up back where we had been before, close enough to Cruising Time to violate their privacy, but not close enough to make contact.

Leo volunteered to take our basura, including the results of our oil change. Unfortunately, in transfering it from a bucket to a jug, we managed to change the color of my port side from white to black, and spatter his port side as well. After wiping up what we could, we donated a spray bottle of Fantastick to the restoration of the white hull.

Well, all that was several hours ago, and the three of us decided to come up to Gone Fishin' to have some fish fingers — something I've never seen on a live fish — and green salads. And watch the daylight complete its swing.

It may not sound like much, but what a perfect day.

— bill 12/09/10

Moonshadow — Deerfoot 2-62
George Backhus, Merima Jaferi
Circumnavigation, Pink & Blue
(Sausalito / New Zealand)

At 1030 hours on January 7, my Deerfoot 2-62 Moonshadow passed beneath the 17th St. Bridge in Ft. Lauderdale, closing the loop on the circumnavigation I'd started here in November of '94. Since then, I have covered approximately 70,000 nautical miles and visited around 40 countries on a mostly westabout course. The destination has always been the journey, and I am happy but sad that this part of the journey has come to an end.

I owe this achievement to my best friend and fiancée, Merima 'The Admiral', who joined me on this odyssey in Australia in '05, and who logged more than 25,000 miles — more than a circumnavigation — with me. Without her strength, determination, companionship, skills and hard work, I would never have made it.

As difficult as it may be after all the miles and memories, we are putting Moonshadow up for sale in the $500,000 plus range. While we fully intend to continue cruising and racing, our cruising profile will change a bit from the long-distance bluewater stuff we’ve been doing to more localized cruising around New Zealand, and perhaps a few other parts of the world that we’ve really enjoyed over the years. We hope to find someone who will continue to love, care for, and enjoy Moonshadow as much as we have for the past 16.5 years.

There are many ways to run a boat, of course, but those who are about to take off cruising might be wondering if Merima and I had 'pink and blue jobs', or both did everything. It was pink and blue, as follows:

In addition to being the highest ranking officer aboard Moonshadow, Merima had the following responsibilities:

— Medical Officer, meaning she was in charge of keeping the crew healthy and happy, and maintaining the medical kit.

— Snacktician, meaning she was in charge of all provisioning and meal planning, as well as being the head chef.

— Vessel Aesthetician. She made sure that the crew kept the vessel clean and tidy, and that the decor was up to muster.

— Official Translator. Multilingual, she interfaced with all foreign officials.

— Bosun’s Mate, which meant she looked after the maintenance of the sails, awnings. and crew apparel. And when necessary, she was the one who went aloft.

My responsibilities included:

— Naviguesser

— Maintenance and repair of all mechanical and electrical systems.

— Dive Master and bottom cleaner

— Fish catcher and cleaner

— Bartender/Sommelier

— D.J.

— george 12/15/10

Cruise Notes:

There are legacy issues that annoy some Californians who take off cruising. One is that the tax assessors in some California counties assess personal property tax on boats even if the boat leaves the county — as well as state and country — for years. The second is that not all cruisers feel inclined or obligated to pay for the sometimes-lavish pensions some California government employees start collecting at a young age. The solution for these cruisers is to establish residency in a different state, preferably without having to buy or rent property, and preferably in a state that doesn't collect up to 10% in income tax.

According to Tom and Lori Jeremiason of the formerly San Francisco-based Catalina 470 Camelot, who did the '10 Ha-Ha, one solution is to sign up with St. Brendan's Isle Mail Forwarding Service of Green Cove Spring, Florida. St. Brendan's was established by some cruisers back in '88, and the 3,500 clients are now composed of about 40% cruisers, 40% RV folks, and a 20% mix of merchant mariners, traveling nurses and the like. St. Brendan's Isle is legally able to provide clients with a Green Cove Spring street address where things like bank statements and boat documentation can mailed. As far as the great state of Florida is concerned, having a street mailing address for bank statements and such satisfies its requirement for being a legal resident of Florida. The folks at St. Brendan's helped the Jeremiasons fill out the residency form and file it with Clay County. "Then when I retired," says Tom, "we flew to Florida and obtained Florida drivers' licenses and registered to vote. It only took 10 minutes to get our licenses at the Florida DMV and Tax Collection Office — try to get it done that quickly in California." St. Brendan's can also act as cruiser's agents in signing and returning annual boat documentation forms.

In addition to always having a human answer telephone calls during business hours, St. Brendan's developed customized business software that allows them — thanks to the bar coding of all incoming mail — to keep track of each piece of mail they receive, know when it was sent and from where, and how many pieces of mail are included in any mail shipments they send to you. Furthermore, the software allows you to view your incoming mail online the day they receive it, and instruct them to hold, send, scan the contents, or shred the envelope. They will also open your mail if you ask them. The basic service is $13.99 a month, so it might be worth looking into. If anyone else provides a similar service, we'd like to hear about it.

In this month's Letters, Paul May of the Valdez-based Vancouver 32 Accomplice was nice enough to send us a thoughtful response to our asking him why he sails Alaska in the summer and lives aboard there in the freezing winter. Well, we've got a new question. In the middle of January, cruisers in the Sea of Cortez were complaining that at times the air and water temperatures had dropped to below 60 degrees, and that they'd been getting whipped by occasional northers blowing a steady 25 knots. Since it's a rather easy sail over to mainland Mexico, where the air temps were in the 80s, the water temps are in the low to mid-70s depending how far south you go, and the wind rarely gets over 18 knots, why stay in the Sea? We're not saying that there is anything wrong with it, we'd just like to be enlightened. So is anybody willing to provide us with an answer as thoughtful as May's?

Former Tiburon residents Steve and Dorothy Darden of the M&M 52 catamaran Adagio have returned to their beloved Tasmania after seven years of cruising mostly Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. "We are in Hobart," they write, "enjoying festival after festival after festival. The next big festival is the Australian Wooden Boat Festival that begins on February 11, and which will feature hundreds of wooden boats."

On their website, the Dardens recount an experience that makes cruising so special: "Unwilling to pay an extra $300 to enter Australia on a weekend, we set our course for the more distant port of Mackay. When the wind got light, we dropped the reacher and tried to motor under the port engine. But there was something wrong, as despite the engine revving, Adagio didn't move. Unable to maneuver comfortably into the Mackay Marina on just one engine, we sailed to the aptly named Refuge Bay on Scawfell Island. It provided adequate shelter from the seas raised by the 20-knot southeasterlies, and there were about a dozen other boats anchored there when we arrived. We had been on the VHF telling the Volunteer Marine Rescue person on duty that we would not be entering the marina right away to check in with Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine, but would be anchoring at Scawfell Island. Well, as soon as we had anchored, a dinghy with two men who had overheard our conversation with VMR showed up. To make a long story short, these 'angels of mercy' not only dove on Adagio to discover that the prop had fallen off, but they also located and borrowed a spare prop of the correct size from another boat in the anchorage! They even scrounged up the proper-sized washers and nuts, dove down, and installed the prop! We were flabbergasted. Coincidentally, the cat whose prop we borrowed had been disabled because they needed an impeller for one of the engines. We lent them our spare impeller, so that the cat was again fully operational. What a wonderful welcome to Australia! And what a great way to make a bunch of new friends."

"It seemed like just yesterday that La Cruz, just up the bay from Puerto Vallarta, was a wonderful, sleepy town," writes Jerry McNeil of the Marina del Rey-based Contessa 43 Rocketeer. "In fact, it was so quiet and the views were so cool that Susan and I talked about buying a little house there. Is it still sleepy and wonderful?"

Although La Cruz is now home to the 340-berth Marina Riviera Nayarit, and there are two 10-story condos in the hills on the inland side of the main road, La Cruz is still tranquil, still Mexican, and still wonderful in the eyes of cruisers. In fact, in mid-January there were over 50 cruising boats anchored off the marina, which is the most we've ever seen. And the marina had more boats — mostly sail — than we'd ever seen. Cruisers love the new Sunday morning market in the town plaza, and the number of upscale dining options has grown. Nonetheless, our favorite eatery remains Eduardo's street taco stand just down from Philo's Music Studio and Bar, where for $3 we can stuff ourselves with delicious tacos and drink the fine wine we brought along, while soaking up the pleasant La Cruz evening ambience. Whatever you could have a bought a house for in La Cruz years ago, you can't do it anymore. Despite the worldwide real estate slump, there is no more room to build in burgeoning Puerto Vallarta, so all the development — and it's still going on — has been moving toward the north shore of Banderas Bay, which includes La Cruz. When the new highway from Guadalajara is finished in two years, and makes the Vallarta Coast an easy weekend driving destination for the six million residents, many of them affluent, La Cruz might get a little less wonderful. But for now, it's in a sweet spot, in more ways than one, along the shores of one of the great tropical sailing bays in the world.

"We're a little late reporting it, but we arrived safely in Australia in early October after a great cruise across the Pacific," write Ian and Jennifer McCallan of the Cardwell, Australia-based MacGregor 65 Mistral. Cardwell, they note, is in the cyclone belt of northeastern Australia, but north of the area of recent flooding. "We left from Panama a little later than normal, so we had to cut short our stays in several places to get them all in. We'd never been to the Pacific before, and we loved the people and the islands. It was such a huge contrast to what we came to think of as the crime-ridden and not-very-friendly Caribbean, an area we won't be going back to. The Caribbean seems to be in a permanent state of disrepair, and there was rubbish everywhere. The two highlights of our Pacific crossing were Palmerston Atoll and Tanna Island, Vanuatu, the latter home to an active volcano. As for clearing in, Australia was by far the most detailed and expensive. Do most cruisers go to New Zealand instead because clearing in isn't so difficult? Fiji had been almost as bad as Australia, as it required about 3.5 hours, 40 signatures, and answering questions such as when was the last time we had our boat de-ratted and/or had cases of plague. At least the officials weren't as bad as in Trinidad and Tobago, where they went out of their way to give my wife a very hard time. Do officials in such places think there is something for them and their island to be gained by being arrogant and rude?"

"We had a rough trip from Marathon, Florida, to Havana, Cuba, but we entered Havana Harbor at 6 a.m. with the magnificent fort still illuminated," reports "Walter" of Ketch 22. [Editor's note: We were unable to get confirmation, but we believe the boat in question is Tom and Naty Marlow's Sunnyvale-based Freedom 39, which did the '06 Ha-Ha, and that Walter is crew.] "We were about halfway into the harbor when the Policia Maritima caught up with us and firmly instructed us to go to Marina Hemingway. We called the harbormaster at Hemingway, who gave us the precise location of a buoy that wasn't on our charts, but was the key waypoint to making a safe and easy entry to the marina. Once inside the marina, we were directed to a Customs berth, where we had a lengthy four-phase check-in, starting with medical. Everyone was very friendly, but there sure was a lot of paperwork. The flares were taken into custody, supposedly to be returned later. The walkie-talkies were put into a sealed bag, but left aboard. We're enjoying our R&R here, but will continue heading west as soon as the heavy winds pass."

It continues to be illegal for most Americans to visit Cuba because it would involve violating the Treasury Department's prohibition against "trading with the enemy". What a crock. Many American boats are now visiting Cuba, and without fear of prosecution by the Obama Administration.

We've been deluged with readers wondering how much it costs to have laundry done in Barra de Navidad, Mexico. We're pleased to report that the answer is about a dollar for 2.2 pounds or $10 for 22 pounds at places like the Lavenderia Jardin. That's not bad at all. It might not seem like it, but doing or getting the laundry done at a reasonable price is often one of the most annoying tasks in cruising — particularly cruising women, who usually get stuck with it.

"Sorry that I haven't kept you posted on what's been up with my wife Marina, myself, and our Wittholz 37 Sea Bear," writes former Bay Area resident Pete Passano, who has been based out of Maine for a number of years now. "In fact, Sea Bear is laid up about 30 feet from our back door. She now has 112,500 miles beneath her keel — including many ocean crossings and one rounding of Cape Horn — since Tiburon's Bob van Blaricom and I built and launched her in the creek behind the San Rafael Civic Center. Marina and I cruised the Caribbean last winter, arrived back in Maine on May 1, and enjoyed the summer here. Our plan for this summer is to cruise the south coast of Newfoundland. I did the south coast in '97, and circumnavigated 'the Rock' in '03, but Marina has never been there. Newfoundland is a wonderful place with friendly and interesting people who speak — almost — English. And there is no crime. Zero!

"I almost forgot," Passano continues, "by the time anyone reads this I will have flown to the Canary Islands to become part of a four-man experienced crew helping a friend bring his Valiant 40 Apogee back from Europe. We plan to leave Mogán, Gran Canaria, on January 20 for Antigua. The rhumb line distance is 2,862 miles, so if we average 150 miles a day, we should make it in 19 days. I made this passage for the first time in '66. In those days we navigated by compass, sextant, and the seat of our pants. I still have a very fond and clear memory of Barbados rising up over the bow dead ahead of us, precisely where and when we figured it would. I have mixed feelings about the impact of modern technology on offshore passage-making. It takes away much of the sense of adventure, excitement and accomplishment, and in exchange you get almost perfect safety. Anyway, I'm looking forward to leaving the ice, snow and cold of Maine behind for a few weeks, and enjoying a warm tropical sail in good company."

For those of you who don't recall our previous reports on Passano, sailing across oceans seems about as difficult for him as it is for the rest of us to drive a car from San Francisco to L.A. Did we mention his age? "I'm 81 going on 50, in excellent health, and feelin' good," he says. "Marina, 55, keeps me young."

In both December and January, we wrote rather long 'Lectronic pieces about how simply wonderful it's been cruising mainland Mexico this winter. In addition, we've enjoyed taking 25 guests along on various Sunday sails on Banderas Bay — in the best tradition of Blair Grinols with Capricorn Cat, and long before him, Bill Lee with Merlin. Since it's always hot on Banderas Bay, members of the crew often need cooling off — as in the photo at right — which just adds to the mirth. God knows we could all use a little more mirth these days.

Among those who enjoyed our pieces on Mexico were Marlene and Roy Verdery of the Northern California-based Manta 42 Damiana, which they bought in Florida and have been cruising in the Western Caribbean. "We loved your write-ups about Mexico. In fact, we've been planning to return ever since we bought our cat. It's taken over three years, but we transited the Canal on December 28-29, and today we depart the Balboa YC for Mexico. We hope to see you soon!"

Indeed, it's been so much fun cruising Mexico that we hardly notice how cumbersome the full body armor has been when taking the dinghy through the surf, how many hours a day it takes to keep the AK-47s clean, and how hard it can be to find a bomb-proof taxi late at night with enough room for our bodyguards as well as us. In all seriousness, there is no denying the terrible narco violence that has affected certain parts of Mexico. But in just as much seriousness, there is no denying that there has been almost no such violence along the Pacific Coast — except sporadically in Acapulco, a city of millions — and that the overwhelming majority of cruisers and snowbirds feel as safe in Mexico, if not more so, than they do in their urban hometowns.

"The Wanderer's reports on cruising mainland Mexico and Banderas Bay are killing me!" agrees Holly Scott of the Alamitos Bay-based Cal 40 Mahalo. "We had a nice warm spell in January, but I'm ready for summer right now. Nonetheless, my big news is that my friend Jo Russell and I bought Charlie's Charts last week. No, not just one copy, but the whole franchise, which includes the six cruising guides covering from Glacier Bay, Alaska, down the Pacific Coast of Canada and the US, the entire west coast of Mexico and Costa Rica, as well as Hawaii and Polynesia. That's a lot of ground to cover to keep the guides up to date, but somebody's got to do it, and Jo and I think we're the ones. We bought the franchise from the late Charlie's wife Margo, who had been at it since '82 and was ready for a break."

Singlehanded circumnavigator Mike Harker of the Manhattan Beach-based Hunter Mariner 49 Wanderlust 3 reports that he's been hanging out in the southeast Caribbean, but has been getting — what else? — wanderlust again. "I'm going to sail across to the Med this summer, then return to the Pacific in the spring of '12, and maybe join the Puddle Jump for the run to Tahiti." If anyone thinks this is just the idle talk of a berth potato, remember that Harker already made both of the trips with his Hunter 466 Wanderlust II — and this was before he did his 11-month singlehanded circumnavigation with his Hunter 49. Harker also notes that business has been better for Hunter Yachts, so they've asked him to do another seminar at Strictly Sail Pacific in Oakland this April.

Speaking of those for whom a circumnavigation just wasn't enough, Harley Earl, who did a circumnavigation from '04-'06 with his wife Jennifer aboard their Sausalito-based Hans Christian 41 Manu Kai, reports they've gotten their new boat, the Deerfoot 62 Kailani that they bought in Marmaris, Turkey, as far home as St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean. "The first leg of the delivery from Turkey to Sausalito was supposed to be from Turkey to Gibraltar, but wound up being from Turkey to Mallorca because the westerlies came up with a vengeance. We left the boat in Mallorca for a month, then set sail again on November 4 for the Eastern Caribbean. We squeaked through the Straits of Gibraltar in the middle of a very busy but calm night, which would be the last calm conditions we'd see for three weeks. The next time we saw light winds was for 10 days to the west of the Canaries. When we complained about persistent light winds to Jennifer, who was doing the weather routing from shore, she would remind us that we could be farther north getting smacked by 35- to 40-knot winds and 25-ft seas. We ghosted almost the entire way across the Atlantic. It wasn't until the last three days that the trades filled in, allowing Kailani to show her stuff, with 225-mile days and hitting 18.8 knots going down a wave. We arrived in St. Lucia on November 29 after 26 days at sea, and managed to make it to the bar before they closed, enabling the crew to feed on cheeseburgers and beer — which had been our fantasy for 1,000 miles.

"We'll return to the boat in February to do some work, family cruising in the Grenadines, and the remainder of the delivery back to San Francisco," continues Earl. "While crossing the Atlantic, crewmember Tom Prior and I worked up a sailing syllabus, and are currently offering berths on the remaining legs back to San Francisco starting in early April. We figure that with two licensed captains/sailing instructors aboard, we have a lot to offer those who might want to sail across an ocean someday or who might just want a guided adventure outside their comfort zone. Meanwhile, Jen, our daughter Sophia, and I are hoping to squeeze in a few last winter sails on our Sabre 32 Savarna before we have to let her go."

What, not another Deerfoot?!

"We were unable to participate in the Ha-Ha in November, but are now in La Cruz having the time of our lives during our first season cruising Mexico aboard our custom Deerfoot 50," write Mark McClellen and Anne MacDonald of the McCall, Idaho-based Blue Rodeo. "The accompanying photo of us was taken between Mag Bay and Cabo San Lucas by our friends Henry and Janice Trembecki. They were doing 7.5 knots on their Nordhaven 55 motoryacht Cloudy Bay, but we were doing 10 knots with our asymmetrical spinnaker, so we overtook them. It was an absolutely perfect day for sailing, with a warm and steady breeze and flat seas. Thank you Latitude for your years of inspiration."

De nada. It's a great shot. And isn't it a great feeling to sail by friends on their motoryacht? We were sailing back to Newport from Catalina a couple of years ago on Profligate, and for about the last 15 miles the wind was blowing at about 18 knots on the quarter. We had a chute up and were doing a steady 12 to 13 knots. As such, we rolled over a line of about a dozen huffing and puffing trawlers and displacement motoryachts up to about 75 feet in length. The owners weren't used to that kind of treatment, and didn't seem amused. But we thought it was kinda fun.

Planning on doing the Puddle Jump from P.V. and don't want to do all the provisioning and cooking? You might contact Camille Waters to do it for you. Waters, who has been in the food business her entire life, had long been doing provisioning and food preparation for folks coming to vacation homes and villas on the Vallarta coast. Then last year she was approached by the Aussie couple on Salacia, who asked if she'd provision and prepare frozen meals for their trip to the Galapagos. Waters did, and the Aussies were very pleased with the results. Now Waters is trying to make a business out of it. She charges 20% of the price of the food itself, plus preparation, but not cooking, time. She can be reached at , or see her ad in this issue of Latitude.

Jake and Sharon Howard of Jake, who provided us with all the information for a basic guide — part one of which appeared in last month's Changes, and the other part in this month's — to spending a summer in the Sea of Cortez, alerted us to the fact we misidentified their current boat. "Our boat history is as follows: "1983-1984, U.S. 305; 1984-1985, Hunter 37 Cutter Rig; 1985-1989, Hunter 40; 1989 to present, Hunter Legend 45." If you conclude that the couple, who have been living aboard constantly for years, most of the time in Seattle, have been more than satisfied with their Hunters, you would be correct.

How come ships are going so slow? The largest 4,665 commercial ships in the world are now traveling at an average of just 11.6 knots, down 7% from last year. It's all because of the price of fuel. As with recreational boats, the more slowly they go, the less they burn.

If you're out cruising, please don't forget to write — and a couple of hi-res photos. Remember to include your full name, boat name and type, and hailing port so friends will recognize you and be suitably envious. But above all, be safe out there!

Missing the pictures? See the February 2011 eBook!


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