With reports this month from
Örnaerie on the polluted coast
of Spain; from Starship on cruising
while a teenage girl; from Blue Banana
in Australia; from Kynda on the resurrection
of Nepenthe; from Geja on another
happy summer cruising in the Med; from Ram
on Fiji; from Mendocino Queen on Kenya;
from Chewbacca on the challenges of
provisioning while south of Mexico; from Bird
of Punk Dolphin in New Zealand; from Bravado
on La Paz in winter; and the most Cruise
Örnaerie - Rassey 31
Cleaning Oil In Spain
I'm back here in California recuperating while Örnaerie
is waiting for me in Nieupoort, Belgium, and spring weather for
a safe passage down to the Med. I'm recuperating from an unusual
sort of cruising adventure I had in Spain last November.
When the single hulled junk tanker Prestige started breaking
up in a storm off Spain, her crew took a helicopter to safety.
Rather then keeping the stricken tanker in shallow water where
the oil could have been contained and pumped out, a Spanish minister
sent the vessel 30 miles offshore - where she sank in deep water
and created an ecological disaster. It now looks as though her
toxic cargo will pollute the shores of Spain and France for many
years to come. Local tourism and fishing industries have been
badly hurt or destroyed.
Wanting to do something, I spent December 20 through January
2 in the small fishing village of Camarinas as one of the many
oil cleanup volunteers. I was given meal tickets, housing, and
daily issues of protective clothing - including a respirator
and goggles - in return for working five hours a day scooping
oil into buckets so it could be hauled away. The working conditions
weren't good, as it was cold, rainy, and windy - so windy, in
fact, that it would knock people over.
It finally became took much for this old guy. As you might remember,
I didn't start sailing until I was 74, and didn't sail my boat
from Moss Landing to Panama and then to Sweden until I was 76.
In any event, I flew the coop to Madrid, then took a train to
Barcelona to visit some old friends, then took a bus back to
Belgium and my boat. A short time later, I flew back to California,
where a Veterans Administration doctor said x-rays showed I had
developed a mild case of pneumonia while doing oil cleanup in
As soon as the weather permits - probably March - I'll fly back
to my boat and head to Portsmouth, England, Guernsey in the Channel
Islands, the Atlantic Coast of France, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar,
and into the Med. Naturally, I plan on giving Cape Finisterre
a wide berth.
- ivan 2/15/03
Starship - 50-ft Trimaran
Cruising While A Teenager
For the past two years of my life - I'm now 14 - I have lived
aboard a 50-ft trimaran with my dad, Don, my mom, Deborah, and
my dog, Daisy. Although we're currently at Pedro Miguel Boat
Club inside Miraflores Lake on the Panama Canal, we've been traveling
down the Pacific Coast of Latin America. Having already been
in the marina here for seven months, we're ready to resume our
lifestyle by cruising on the ocean some more.
I'm originally from Santa Cruz, where my mother and father raised
me on this wonderful boat since I was a little girl. We took
many sailing trips on Monterey Bay and along the California coast.
People always tell me that this educational experience will change
my life, and it has. Not many of my friends back home have spent
hours running along deserted islands, climbing coconut trees,
and diving on beautiful coral reefs. I don't think life
in the States will ever be the same for me.
The things I like to do most with my free time are art work,
play the guitar, sing, dive, surf, fish, and explore desert islands.
So far my family and I have already traveled through seven different
countries, but this is only the beginning. We plan on going to
Europe, too. First, of course, we have to get through the Canal.
My favorite places we've been so far are Panama and its beautiful
islands, the Galapagos Islands, and Cocos Island, Costa Rica.
I love these places because of their amazing beauty, but also
because while there I met other kids my age who were cruising,
too. The 'kid boats' that we have met and had a wonderful time
with are Scalawag, who we've been traveling with for a
year now; Kela, and Lady Star Light, who we met
in the Galapagos; Wild Blue, who we met in Panama; and
Chewbacca and Cruzing Time, who we met in Mexico.
After we complete our transit of the Canal, I'll write about
what it's like to be a teenager on a boat in the Caribbean.
- darci 2/15/03
- Gulfstar 50
Bill & Sam Fleetwood
Remember us? With the Crew List coming up, some readers
may be interested in our story. Sam took out a Cruising Crew
List ad, and Bill emailed me a response. We hit it off, and four
months later bought the Catalina 36 Whirlwind together.
Then we got married, sold Whirlwind, bought Blue
Banana (ex-Piper), sailed in the '97 Ha-Ha and have
been out cruising ever since. We did the Puddle Jump in '99,
and have never missed an issue of Latitude. We've been
having a fabulous time!
Since we last wrote from the Cook Islands, we have visited Niue,
Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. We arrived in Mooloolaba,
Australia - affectionately known as Oz - just before Christmas
2001 after a five-day motorsail from Noumea in no wind. Six months
and many boat upgrades later, Blue Banana headed north
to the fabled Lizard Island, our northernmost destination for
What an incredible season of cruising we've had here along Australia's
famous Queensland coast! When we left Mooloolaba (pronounced
Mah-LOO-la-ba), it was June and the weather was down to the mid-40s
here at latitude 26°S. Time to head north to warmth. Our
first challenge was crossing the Wide Bay Bar in the late afternoon
of Day One. This much discussed and dreaded escapade turned out
to be a piece of cake because it was calm - although there were
breaking waves on either side of us. We anchored for the night
between Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world,
and the Australian mainland.
The next part of our adventure was traveling about 40 miles in
water not much deeper than our keel, as we made our way up what
is known as The Great Sandy Strait. Just to make things more
interesting, the strong wind warning that had been forecast filled
in about noon with 40 knots - but we still had to wait two more
hours until the tide was high enough for us to travel. By that
time the anchorage had become untenable due to the wind and waves,
and we had to depart. There were buoys and leads to follow, but
it was not easy because we had to do eight knots to maintain
steering in the strong current and the water was too cloudy with
silt to see the bottom.
Three days and two anchorages later, we arrived in Bundaberg.
We visited the famous Bundaberg Rum Factory, not because the
rum was so great, but because it's just what you do. From there
we sailed in day hops up to the Whitsunday Islands. The Queensland
coast has islands by the hundreds to choose from for overnight
anchoring. The farther north we went, the more protection we
got from the Great Barrier Reef, so the water became flatter
and the sailing more pleasant. The Whitsundays are a charter
boat mecca, and are famous for their beauty and their white sand
beaches - especially Whitehaven Beach. They lived up to their
reputation. The currents are strong in these islands, though,
and the wind frequently blows in the 15-25 knot range - so there
are often a lot of unhappy charterers to entertain us on the
radio. However, there are excellent anchorages for all wind directions,
and the views from Whitsunday Peak are well worth the hike to
We kept moving north 40 to 60 miles a day, leaving early in the
morning, and sailing or motorsailing all day in light to moderate
southeast trades. We went to Airlie Beach, a haven for the young
and the restless known as 'backpackers', then continued past
all the places named by James Cook 230 years ago: Double Bay,
Gloucester Island, Cape Upstart, Cape Bowling Green, and then
Townsville. Only five miles off of delightful and very civilized
Townsville is Magnetic Island, where we saw our first koalas
in the wild.
Continuing north, we visited Orpheus Island before crossing our
second bar entrance into the Hinchinbrook Channel, another shallow
winding strait. Once out of the channel and still just day hopping,
we visited Dunk Island, Fiztroy Island, the town of Cairns -
which is very tourism oriented and where we anchored in the river
- Port Douglas, Hope Islets, past Cape Bedford and finally, at
14° 39' south, we arrived at Lizard Island on August 26.
We had come 1,100 miles, and it was worth every one of them.
We climbed to the top of the island which is called Cook's Look
because back in 1770 Capt. James Cook climbed up to see if there
was a way out of the Barrier Reef - which at this point starts
coming closer in to the mainland. Sure enough, he found Cook's
Passage and headed out that way the next day so as not to risk
"embayment" in the relentless southeast trades.
We hiked and snorkeled and scuba'd and abseiled, and hung out
on the incredible fine white sand beaches. The lagoons were full
of more different kinds of sea creatures than we had seen anywhere
- including psychedelic-colored clams so huge you could easily
climb into one! We stayed 10 days at Lizard Island until the
springtime northers began, at which time we up-anchored and worked
slowly all the way back down to Mooloolaba, stopping at places
we had missed on the way north and revisiting a few of our favorite
islands. Now back in the marina, we are readying the boat for
the next phase of our trip: Papua New Guinea, Darwin, Indonesia,
Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand - where we hope to be by Christmas
- bill & sam 2/15/03
Kynda - Passport 40
Peter & Linda Young
The Resurrection Of Nepenthe
We are currently on the Pacific Coast of Panama enjoying this
great country and the friendly and helpful people. We were at
Balboa for Christmas, and the hospitality of the Pedro Miguel
Boat Club was terrific. We had a wonderful holiday turkey dinner
with great cruising friends.
While here, we've learned about the interesting tale of the resurrection
of the Islander 37 Nepenthe - which some readers may recall
was one of two boats that was badly damaged in the Panama Canal
almost two years ago. At the time of the accident, John Pearlman
owned the boat. His boat and another were rafted to a tug whose
stern line got loose, allowing the sailboats to be pulled broadside
beneath the stern of a big ship inside one of the locks.
Bengt and Anne Fries are ex-pat Canadians who live near Playa
del Coco in northern Costa Rica. Although they own a beautiful
house overlooking the Pacific, Bengt always wanted a cruising
sailboat as well. Unfortunately, the import duty for sailboats
is very steep in Costa Rica. Then he heard about Nepenthe.
Bengt purchased the Islander in Panama in July of '01, and while
at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club spent many hours cleaning the boat
up. He also had a new bow pulpit put on and the stanchions repaired.
Since the boat no longer had a mast, he had the engine checked
out to make sure it was all right. Unfortunately, it would prove
to be a poor diagnosis. After buying a good dinghy, he and some
Costa Rican friends began taking Nepenthe north toward
his home in Costa Rica.
About 30 miles offshore of Quepos, Costa Rica, the engine quit
for good. Bengt and his crew spent about five hours trying to
hail passing fishing boats for assistance. That afternoon, a
fishing boat - fully provisioned for a fishing expedition - responded
and towed them in to Quepos. Despite the long tow, the fishermen
refused compensation except for the fuel they had burned.
Nepenthe stayed in Quepos until November for engine repairs,
which unfortunately were never completed. So Bengt pulled the
engine himself, and took it to Playa del Coco for a rebuild.
He then arranged for some local fishermen to tow the boat to
the Costa Rica YC at Puntarenas, Costa Rica, which has good facilities
and competent labor.
It took 10 months to get the Volvo MD2B rebuilt, in part because
getting parts was sometimes a problem. While the engine work
was being done, a Selden mast, complete with both standing and
running rigging, was ordered from Florida Rigging & Hydraulics.
Bengt then had to modify the furling gear and fittings to get
everything back in working order. He also had to have the sails
On November 22, 2002, Bengt and his wife moved Nepenthe
- which will soon be rechristened Pura Vida - to her new
home on a mooring in Playa del Coco. Now they can watch the boat
from their home, which overlooks the water. In the future, they
plan to take the boat up to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, to have
her hauled for interior and exterior cosmetic work. By spring
they hope Pura Vida will be ready for some short cruises.
It was a wonderful feeling for us to see that someone's misfortune
has become someone else's dream, and to see new life breathed
into an older boat.
- paul & linda 1/25/03
Readers - And now for the $64,000 question:
How much, if anything, was John Pearlman, the original owner,
compensated for the damage to his boat?
Geja - Islander 36
Dick & Shirley Sandys
Croatia, Italy, Sicily
We returned to our boat in Dubrovnik, Croatia, in May, 2002,
after spending the winter in the United States. Our boat weathered
the winter in the Dubrovnik Marina without mishap, and we only
had to haul her for bottom painting before continuing our cruising.
The marina is getting crowded because it's not expensive, it
has a swimming pool and restaurant, and is a short bus ride to
the beautiful walled medieval city of Dubrovnik.
While in Dubrovnik, we met our friends Rik and Lewjean of Window,
and John and Lynnette of King Harold, to celebrate Shirley's
birthday before sailing off in our various directions. We're
not proceeding too quickly, but we continue in a westerly direction.
The coast and islands of Croatia were as beautiful this year
as they were last. When we got tired of enjoying clear blue anchorages
and rocky or sandy beaches, we would stop in a medieval walled
city and enjoy a rack of lamb/goat dinner for $10 each. We cruised
with Lars and Birgitta of Lady Albatross for a week, then
hurried with King Harold up to Pula, Croatia, which houses
a beautiful Roman Amphitheater.
We later crossed the Adriatic to Venice, where we tied Geja
to the 'posts'. The location of our mooring provided us with
a view of St. Mark's Piazza from our cockpit. These moorings
were supposed to be free, but boats that came after us were charged.
Unfortunately, the waves from the passing ferries and gondolas
made it impossible to get a good night's sleep. But the water
didn't smell and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves: good food,
concerts, the Doge's Palace, street artisans, museums and churches.
We returned to Croatia and cruised the islands Losinj, Dugi Otak,
Koronot, Hvar, and Lostovo. All of them offered lovely anchorages
that we would like to visit again sometime. Our special discovery
was Luka Krivica, which has beautiful clear water, is sheltered
from all winds, and has a restaurant a short walk through the
pine woods. We checked out from Velji Lago on Lostovo, Croatia,
and made our way for the southeastern part of the boot of Italy.
This part of Italy was all right, but it wasn't very green and
didn't have the boating facilities of Croatia. Nonetheless, we
liked Vieste, Brindisi and Otranto along this part of the coast,
and began to learn Italian.
Along the sole of the 'boot', we got stuck trying to cross the
Gulfo di Squillace - or Gulf of Squalls. We tried to cross it
early one morning, but had the wind shift 180° when we got
10 miles offshore. We turned around to go back - gentlemen and
ladies do not go to weather - but after 100 meters got another
180° degree windshift, so we turned around again. Another
100 meters and, yep, another 180° windshift. The wind gods
were determined to make us go to weather. So we headed back to
our original port of Le Castella and waited for a windless day
so we could motor. This was a fairly typical scenario in the
Med, but much more dramatic then anything we'd experienced previously.
One more hop got us to Sicily, where we anchored with a view
of Mt. Etna. Taormina is toured from here and we met up with
King Harold again. We looked down at turquoise/dark blue
bays from the heights of the oldest Greek settlement in Sicily.
Leaving Taormina Roads, we sailed through the Messina Straits
and the dreaded whirlpools at Skylla and Kharibdis. As usual,
modern weather and tide forecasting made easy what used to put
fear into the hearts of the ancient Greek seafarers. On the north
side of Sicily is the harbor of Portorosa, an upscale protected
harbor with seven restaurants and bus service to quaint towns.
From here we cruised to the Aeolian Islands, Tindari, and took
a train ride to Palermo. We plan to be back on Geja in
June to continue westward.
- dick & shirley sandys
Ram - J/130
Robert & Kim Milligan
Fun In Fiji For A Second Time
Although Ram is back in New Zealand, we had a great summer
season in Fiji. We started the last cruising season with a fast
seven-day passage from Opua in New Zealand's Bay of Islands to
Savusavu on Fiji's big island of Vanua Levu. Savusavu was a wonderful
place to check into the country, as the officials were friendly,
the town is small and mellow, and because the Corpa Shed Marina
has just about everything a cruiser needs. In addition, it meant
we were able to begin cruising Fiji from the windward end.
Our time in northeastern Fiji was characterized by great diving
in clear waters and by challenging sailing. We only saw a small
portion of this part of the country, but especially enjoyed Viani
Bay, Makogai and Rambi. A lot of the land in this area is freehold,
so the traditional village structure was lacking. Nonetheless,
the welcome was still warm.
We had family onboard for a whirlwind tour of the Yasawa Group,
and found having kids with us opened a lot of doors in this more
touristy part of Fiji. The Musket Cove Resort at Malololailai
Cove made us very welcome, and as hard as it was to believe,
the place has gotten even better than it was 10 years ago! We
found Ram's first place on the Round Malolo trophy from
1992 when we raced our J/35 - so we decided to give it another
go. This is a no handicap, line honors race, and they put something
in the water that made us lose - some very big and fast boats!
Ram had a great crew and we sailed smart, but alas we
were beaten by Rubino, a Martin 63, the 80-ft Kialoa
III, and Morpheus, a new Kiwi-built Schumacher 50.
Oh well, we've surely been beaten by worse boats! Race Week was
a hoot with lots of other games and general silliness.
The absolute highlight of our time in Fiji was a return visit
to Solotavui, our favorite village on Kandavu Island. It was
great to be greeted by name on the beach after 10 years of being
away, and getting to see our old friends again as we made our
sevusevu! We jumped right back into village life, working on
the plantations, playing petanque with the kids, and telling
stories around the kava bowl in the evening. Solotavui has a
strong community spirit, and people work together on many projects.
Robert helped out doing some fiberglass repairs on the mayor's
boat, mostly just teaching our friends so they'll be able to
do it themselves in the future. Jo, the chief, has asked us to
extend an invitation to any yachties who would like to see the
real Fiji to come and visit. These people will renew your faith
in mankind. Kandavu is often cloudy, which is why it's lush,
but it's still beautiful. Even though it's not a sandy beach
and palm trees kind of place, it's still one of our favorite
spots, and we hope to return!
With a little bit of luck and a lot of Internet weather, we headed
back to New Zealand. We had a decent enough trip, with some headwinds
and some motoring required. Now we are enjoying watching the
pohutakawas bloom and the Louis Vuitton races - when the conditions
permit them to be held. As we write this, we're waiting for warmer
P.S. Robert used to do a lot of racing on San Francisco Bay with
Tom Thayer and Dick Watts, and he misses it!
- robert & kim
Queen - DownEast 38
Allen & Kate Barry
We crossed the Indian Ocean in 2002, enjoying stops at Sri Lanka,
the Maldives, Chagos, and the Seychelles. We spent last New Year's
Day at Lamu Island, Kenya, watching - along with hundreds of
locals - 10 Arabian-style dhows race around the bay. Prior to
the beach start, we could see that all of the 30-ft dhows had
patched and tired sails. It was going to be a hard race on the
boats, as it was blowing 30 knots and they would carry 10 crew
rather than the normal three, with most of the seven extra acting
as ballast on the moveable hiking boards. Conditions were so
harsh that only six of the 10 boats finished. The dhow from Shela
village won first place, so the residents celebrated for the
rest of the day. We'd been cheering for the boat from Lamu village,
as Simba, one of the crew, had taken Allen sailing on her from
Lamu to Shela. They got third.
Lamu is a hot, sunny, sand dune island with a large Muslim village.
The white-hot sand dunes, coral buildings, mosques, and dhows
make it look quite exotic. The anchorage is well-protected, so
it was comfortable for us to lie in the hammock under the sunshade
and watch the dhows sail by. Most are fishing dhows, although
some transport commodities such as sisal rope or take tourists
for sails. There are only a few small hotels here, some very
expensive, and some for backpackers. But there are no more than
100 tourists in all. We anchored in front of the Peponi Hotel
at the smaller village of Shela. There are a total of three other
cruising yachts here - one Canadian, one French, and one German.
Allen's mom and nephew flew into Mombasa from the States, then
sailed up here to Lamu with us for the holidays. Each day we
take a sailing or motorized dhow for the two kilometer ride to
the market at Lamu town. It's a colorful place where most of
the women wear patterned kangas or bui buis. Some have their
faces covered. The Muslim men wear the kopi or beaded cap. Some
wear the khanzu, which is the long white gown, but most wear
shirts and a kickoi, which is a plaid wrap. Everyone is friendly
and many were wishing us a Merry Christmas. A small percentage
of the population is Christian, but everyone seems to tolerate
differences. The national elections for president were on December
27, so there were political posters everywhere and there had
been lots of political discussions taking place under mango trees
and in the market square.
We enjoyed the Lamu Museum, which is in an old Swahili house
built of white coral stone, making it cool and airy inside. Instead
of interior walls, they use columns for support, which create
galleries for privacy but still allows the air to circulate.
The old kitchens were placed on the second floors of buildings
so the charcoal smoke could blow outside rather than heat and
smoke up the interiors. The rooftops are always the coolest places
with the best views.
The Muslims are called to prayer many times a day. We shop in
the morning when it is cooler. The men go to prayer at 12:30,
so the shops close and everyone naps until about 4 p.m. Stores
then open up again, but we watch from our boat, enjoying sundowners
after the sun descends behind the sand dunes and it's no longer
so bright out. After a short twilight, the night turns black
until whatever moon there might be rises. Star gazing in this
area is terrific. Saturn, the closest its been in 30 years, has
been particularly bright.
Food is not expensive here. Lamu fishermen bring in plenty of
seafood, so we've been enjoying lobster, jumbo prawns, mud crabs,
kingfish, and snapper. The latter two fish are only 150 Kenya
shillings per kilo - or about 85 U.S. cents a pound. The other
seafood is more expensive, but it's always less than $3/person
for the best. There's a variety of fruit, veggies, and rice in
the markets, and it's almost free. While in Mombasa, we were
able to buy South African wine by the box.
This year - which will be our 10th out cruising - we are planning
to sail to Tanzania, the Comoros Islands, Madagascar, and South
Africa. The following year we plan to sail around the Cape of
Good Hope and into the Atlantic, then up to the Caribbean.
- allen & kate 1/15/03
Chewbacca - 30-ft Crowther Cat
The Winship Family
Provisioning South of Mexico
As we prepared to head south and leave Mexico, we provisioned
heavily in Zihua and Acapulco because of the great selection
of food and the ease of schlepping our provisions back to the
dinghy landing. What we didn't realize is that soon we'd be leaving
a 'land of plenty' and start visiting countries where provisioning
could be a real adventure. It's true that everyone has to eat
and that you could find food in any small town, but in some places
in Guatemala and El Salvador it was difficult to find the variety
and high quality of food we had become accustomed to in Mexico.
Our first stop south of Mexico was Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.
We had a wonderful 12-day adventure exploring the Mayan Highlands,
where the most beautiful produce was available. But back at the
lowlands by the port, there was only minimal provisioning from
a 7-Eleven type junk food store. Luckily, we were still well
stocked with Mexican provisions when we took off again for Bahia
del Sol in El Salvador. The Navy base at Puerto Quetzal did top
off our water tanks and had some coconuts.
For the month we were at Bahia del Sol, finding food was an adventure,
as we spent two or three days a week going one place for a frozen
chicken and then another day hunting for veggies at a small village
market up a river. In the mercado, we saw venders liberally spraying
Raid bug spray on their vegetables to keep the flies off! We
suspect the butchers did it to the meat, too. If we'd had the
money to rent a car, we could have driven to San Salvador and
loaded up at Price Mart, but it was not an option for us.
When I eventually ventured into the city to try to provision,
I did find some well-stocked grocery stores. Unfortunately, I
could only carry as much canned food as I could get in my knapsack
and stand up with for a three-hour ride on a crowded bus back
to the boat. Potable water had to be purchased in five-gallon
bottles - for $3 - because the anchorage water was too murky
to run the watermaker. We managed to survive, of course, but
there wasn't much variety in our diet. Our kids remember Del
Sol as "the rice and beans" place. By then, I was certain
that the national food of El Salvador was the hot dog!
We then sailed down the coast 30 miles to Barillas Marina, also
in El Salvador, where provisioning improved dramatically because
the nearby town of Usultan has two modern grocery stores, one
with a bakery inside. There was also a fairly large local mercado
where it was possible to buy everything from veggies to live
chickens. We found a limited selection of cheeses and all the
jelly or yogurt one would want - assuming one liked strawberry.
The marina store stocked Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Skippy peanut
butter, and other familiar foods, but these were beyond our budget.
But the marina did offer free potable water from the hose. The
food in this part of El Salvador wasn't bad, but the variety
and quality were nothing compared to Mexico.
Before leaving Barillas, we set aside lots of canned goods for
those weeks when we might be trapped at an isolated anchorage
by high winds. It was a wise move. Our weatherfax indicated a
beautiful weather window when we started out on a straight shot
to Costa Rica, but halfway there we got hit by the infamous Papagayo
winds. We enjoyed two weeks at Bahia Santa Elena, living off
of our canned goods while 30-knot winds whistled overhead. There
is a small fishing village near the anchorage called Cualjiniquil
that has limited provisions, and diesel and gas are available
from the fishermen. With provisions again running low, we headed
on to Playa del Coco.
Our first visit to a Costa Rican grocery store put us in heaven,
as it was well supplied. We loaded up with gouda cheeses, spaghetti
sauces, pickles, and meat that didn't come in a tube. You have
to understand that Costa Ricans are very well off compared to
their neighbors to the north. We found all kinds of nuts, dried
fruits, and gourmet items that we hadn't seen since Mexico. Provisioning
in Costa Rica has been great, as we've found well-stocked stores
in even small anchorages. The quality of the meat, veggies, and
fruits is very high, and the whole grocery store experience has
been very positive. We've seen no smelly meat counters or questionable
Another pleasure of traveling in Costa Rica is that all water
is potable. We've found good tasting, clean water right from
the hose everywhere we went. Starting in Bahia Del Coco, we found
well stocked stores in Bahia Ballena - which also has a visiting
organic veggie and fruit truck - Montezuma, Paquera, Puntarenas,
Quepos - which also has an excellent farmers' market - and Golfito
- which also has a veggie truck that stops at Land & Sea.
Finding diesel and gasoline was never a problem in Central America.
However, those of us with 'North American' propane tanks have
had to wait from two days to a week to have our tanks filled.
They use a different valve/regulator down here and simply exchange
the empty tanks for full ones at almost any grocery store - even
in the smallest villages. Several of the cruisers have opted
to switch over to the Tropi-Gas bottles to simplify their lives.
As for what lies ahead, fellow cruisers
tell us that we should provision heavily for the island groups
around Perida and Secas because that water is so clear and the
diving and snorkeling so good that we'll want to spend several
months exploring the area. So Chewbacca is sitting heavy
in the water ready to enjoy Panama.
- the winship family 2/6/03
Bravura - X-442
Jonathan 'Bird' Livingston, Crew
Adventures In New Zealand
The Traveling Bird is back in the northern hemisphere after a
scouting trip to New Zealand's sailing playgrounds. Suzie and
I were supposed to sail down to New Zealand on our Wylie 38 Punk
Dolphin after the West Marine Pacific Cup and getting married
in Lahaina last summer, but this and that happened, and suddenly
it was too late in the season. So Punk Dolphin is still
in Lahaina, and we did our sailing in New Zealand with Garrett
Loube - son of the late San Francisco Bay legendary racer Irv
Loube - aboard his X-442 Bravura. Also part of the Bravura
crew was Russell Long, head of the Bluewater Network to protect
One day, the four of us left one of the many perfectly protected
pocket anchorages on the east coast of the North Island because
the wind was fair for a southerly course toward Auckland. Unlike
in the Bay Area, which gets westerlies in all but the winter,
the wind blows from all directions in New Zealand. So folks here
typically leave the anchorage, see which way the wind is blowing,
and then pick some off the wind anchorage to sail to. In other
words, they like to go where the wind blows.
Anyway, we noticed that the wind was moderate enough for the
half-ounce kite, and that if we kept the pole just off the headstay,
we could make Garrett's boat romp. So we set the chute and settled
into a groove at about 7.5 knots. The course took us just where
we wanted to go - Man O' War Passage and Fitzroy Harbor on the
Great Barrier Island some 60 miles off the coast of Auckland.
What a great day, with the autopilot holding a perfect curl in
the luff of the kite, a robust wave peeling off the bow, and
everybody moving to reggae tunes.
After dousing the kite at the end of the day, we motored through
a very narrow passage and inside magical Fitzroy Harbor. It's
about the size of Richardson Bay, but has deep water all around
and many bays within. The neat thing is that from the outside
you can't even tell there is a protected harbor, but once inside,
you see all the many protected anchorages.
Scanning the shore for the most appealing anchorage, I noticed
a particularly fine looking yacht a half mile ahead fine off
the port bow. Looking through the binocs, I told Suzie that it
looked like a Schumacher design - as in Carl Schumacher, the
very fine Alameda naval architect who died way to soon a little
while ago. The dark-hulled boat had a beautiful shear, a fractional
rig and wide spreaders, and a low cabin house and nice windows
- sort of like the Schumacher designed Surprise. But since
we were in New Zealand, I assumed she was a Kiwi boat - until
I saw the American flag. Then I remembered that Jim Gregory,
a good friend and Bay Area Etchells sailor, had just had a Schumacher
50 built by Dave Norris in Christchurch, New Zealand.
"Hard left, Baby, we're going over to have a closer look,"
I told Suzie.
As we closed in on the splendid looking boat gracefully laying
at anchor, I knew it had to be a Schumacher. The boat was indeed
the Gregory family's 50-ft Morpheus. Her lean and low
profile, smartly raked carbon rig, and lack of cruising clutter
seemed to harken back to the aesthetical nautical protocol of
the Herreshoff years - but in a modern way.
The Gregorys - Jim, Debbie, and two sons - were aboard. Having
heard that I was in the area, and seeing a sailor drooling at
their boat and acting strange, they knew it had to be me. Having
last seen them in Richmond when I was dumpster diving for an
Etchells jib to use for a staysail in the Pacific Cup, it was
a shock to see them on their Schumacher magic carpet, where they
have been home-schooling their boys in the waters of New Zealand
and Fiji. I got the tour of the boat, and found her to be as
beautiful as she is functional.
The Gregorys report that Morpheus will be arriving back
in the Bay Area in July of this year, and will be racing - minus
the family's prodigious library - in the '04 West Marine Pacific
- birdman 02/15/03
Bravado - Elliot 46
The Breed Family
La Paz In Winter
In the real estate industry, it's said that the three most important
things are location, location, and location. In sailing, it should
be weather, weather, and weather. Our best sailing experiences
seem to align with good weather, and that's exactly what we had
while in La Paz, Mexico, and more importantly, while coming back
up the coast from Cabo San Lucas to San Francisco this February.
Bravado joined the 2002 Baja Ha-Ha with our family of
four, including Catherine, 9, and Alexandra, 7. They completely
enjoyed the trip down - as well as seeing a photo of themselves
in the January Latitude. For those who think the Ha-Ha
is a two-week booze cruise for adults only, you don't have a
clue. My young daughters would do the Ha-Ha every year if they
could, and would do it over going to Disneyland.
We only stayed in Cabo a short time before moving on up to La
Paz, which only took a day. There we spent Thanksgiving, Christmas,
and New Years cruising the islands off La Paz. We have been doing
the Baja thing for over 15 years by car, so we know the peninsula
well. We chose La Paz for our base because it is by far the best
all-around 'base-camp' in Baja. It has excellent weather, complete
marine supplies, lots of restaurants, a decent airport, and isn't
too touristy. We met lots of fine people, all of whom were willing
to lend a hand if someone else needed it.
We decided to keep Bravado in Marina de La Paz for the
holidays while we flew back and forth to the Bay Area. Mary made
us feel at home, and could solve any problems that typically
confront cruisers. After paying up the whazoo for one year's
worth of fishing permits, Immigration documents, and clearing
in and out, we were legally set. We didn't find it to be a hassle
but rather quite a waste of money - $600 to be exact. Those fishing
permits and licenses, in particular, are very expensive.
The islands off La Paz offer excellent cruising grounds for diving
and hiking. Our kids swam with young sea lion pups for an entire
day. A most incredible thing happened: a seal pup dove down to
the bottom, got a long-legged starfish, and handed it to Catherine!
Not once, but twice. Good diving and hiking can be found on most
of the islands.
Despite all the fun we were having, in the back of my mind I
was always a little stressed about the inevitably awful trip
back to San Francisco that is the price for cruising fun in Mexico.
For this one thing I envied folks with trailerable boats or seats
on jets. But we had no choice but to either sell the boat or
motor her home. Since we still like the boat and are planning
to race her in this July's TransPac, we opted to sail her back.
Once our best 'Bash' asset, Rick Shema of theweatherguy.com,
told us there was a window, we booked the travel and had the
crew fly to Cabo. We used the same folks who brought the boat
home after the Pacific Cup last year - Henning, Cindy, Victor
and John. They did a great job, as always. Other than seeing
what looked to be a big drug drop off near Ensenada - huge plastic
wrapped containers with sea anchors - it was an uneventful trip.
We'd actually broken the trip into two parts with two crews.
The first non-stop passage was from Cabo starting on February
1. The boat arrived in San Diego on February 6, which is just
five days later. The second delivery crew started late that night
and finished in San Francisco on the 9th. Nine days from Cabo
to San Francisco - that's not bad.
If we Mexico cruisers could always have prior knowledge of such
perfect weather windows, we'd be all set. Until then, we'll take
the good luck when it comes our way.
- charles 2/16/03
The report was as good as it was brief. Tony Johnson's Richmond-based
Ericson 39 Maverick - which had suddenly sprung a serious
leak from a crack in the bottom of her hull at the end of a transAtlantic
crossing - has been repaired and is now back in the water at
Carriacou in the Eastern Caribbean. We'll have a more detailed
report on the repairs next month. After the hull has been put
to the test, Johnson and Terry Shrode will sail to Panama and
back up to the Bay Area by June, completing their circumnavigation.
It's only a month or two until boats in Mexico start the Baja
Bash from Cabo San Lucas up to San Diego. We've never heard a
good explanation of what macro weather pattern would be the best
for a long term weather window to head north from Cabo. For example,
should Bashers be looking for a strong or weak Pacific High?
A high to the east or to the west? Or some other condition. Can
Speaking of the Baja Bash, you never want to check out of a Mexican
port directly for the United States, because that's an international
clearance and can be more complicated and expensive than clearing
out to another domestic port. So no matter if you check out of
La Paz or Puerto Vallarta, with "intermediate stops",
or from Cabo San Lucas, always clear to Ensenada rather than
San Diego. What do you do if you don't want to stop in Ensenada?
Just don't. The folks who have just continued on to San Diego
report they haven't had any problems. By the way, when we were
in Cabo San Lucas in November, we were told that vessels stopping
in Cabo just to take on fuel did not have to clear in and out.
If you're lucky and will be heading to French Polynesia instead
of up the Baja coast this spring, we strongly encourage you to
acquire a copy of Guide to Navigation and Tourism in French
Polynesia, a new book by Patrick Bonnette, former ship captain,
sailing instructor, and Harbormaster for the Port of Papeete,
and Emmanuel Deschamps, a travel writer and photographer in French
Polynesia for 20 years. This book covers the Marquesas, Tuamotus,
Gambiers, Societies, and Austral Islands, and has beautiful color
photographs, many of them from the air, as well as excellent
charts and all the current and historical information you'll
need. Other than the fact that we can't vouch for the accuracy
of the chartlets, we can't give this book high enough praise.
It's beautifully done, and is printed at a place in France that's
been in business since 1640! No, that's not a typo. Initially
this guide was hard to find, but is now available at most places
that sell marine books.
"We plan to cruise directly from San Francisco to the Marquesas
- not stopping in Mexico - at the end of April aboard our Oakland-based
46-ft ketch," say 'A & H' - who wish to remain anonymous
because the "huge companies" they work for don't know
they are leaving yet. "We're wondering if anyone else is
planning a similar cruise for about the same time so we can compare
radio skeds and weather information. We can be reached ."
Yes, their email address starts with the letter 's' eight times
in a row. It has something to do with preventing spam.
While in Tenacatita Bay last month - where a huge fleet of cruising
boats was having a great time, with Robert (and Virginia) Gleser
of the Alameda-based Freeport 40 Harmony serving as 'mayor'
- we bumped into Ha-Ha and surfing friends Chris van Dyke and
his wife Chris van Dyke of the Ventura-based Valiant 40 Spirit
Wind. Chris - the male - told us that he started to experience
some discomfort in his ear after cleaning the waterline of his
boat a few months before. He assumed it was an infection. When
the pain became worse, he poured some alcohol drops into his
ear. That brought immediate relief - because it drove out the
little crab that had taken up residence in his ear! Needless
to say, Chris now uses drops each time he comes out of the water.
On a happier note, he reports that when a south swell rolled
into Tenacatita Bay, he got some nice right hand rides near the
Just a reminder to everyone that the cruiser-only Banderas Bay
Regatta - the major cruiser sailing and social event of the year
- will be held from March 20-23 out of Marina Paradise just north
of Puerto Vallarta. We can't recommend this event enough, as
it's free, the facilities are fantastic, and the sailing conditions
are terrific in a mild sort of way. Since the racing is truly
mellow, we also highly recommend that you race your own boat
rather than crewing for somebody else. It doesn't matter that
it's full of cruising gear or you're not really a racer, just
think of it as a parade around a set of buoys. But no matter
if you race or not, you really don't want to miss this one. Visit
In addition, Profligate - and hopefully some other boats
- will be participating in a Spinnaker Cup for Charity the day
before the Banderas Bay Regatta. This event will start with lunch
at Punta de Mita - most people will take the bus out - followed
by a 12-mile spinnaker run back to Paradise Marina. Lupe Dipp
of The Moon and Stars is in charge of organizing and will have
all the details. All proceeds go to the local school for developmentally
challenged children. If you'd like to contribute to this great
cause but won't be able to make it in person, please contact
Is there anyone with more ants in their pants for long ocean
passages than John Neal and Amanda Swan-Neal of the Seattle-based
Halberg-Rassy 46 Mahina Tiare III? In the last 21 years,
they've sailed a collective 350,000 ocean miles - lots of them
in not so mellow places such as the Roaring Forties and the very
high latitudes. During that time, John, and later with the help
of Amanda, has held 113 weekend Offshore and Coastal Cruising
Seminars, sharing his/her vast knowledge - and their 350-page
Offshore Cruising Companion - with 7,500 students. In addition,
for the last 14 years, they've taken hundreds of students all
over the world on their Mahina Expeditions, sometimes to places
with sweet sailing, but also to places as rough as the Roaring
Forties. Last year they had a pretty mellow season, taking six
groups on different legs from Honolulu to Auckland. Starting
in May, they'll be doing their normal loop east in the Roaring
Forties to the Austral Islands, then up to Tahiti, the Cooks,
Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and back to Auckland by
December. "You may think we're nuts," John writes us,
"but we had so much fun in Scandanavia and Europe last time
that we'll be heading back across the Atlantic in 2006 and then
up as high as 80°N in 2007. The high latitude stuff is a
blast - especially when there is not too much ice."
We love John and Amanda, and have tremendous respect and admiration
for what they do, but we do think they are nuts. The only ice
we want to see while on our boat is that floating in a sea of
rum when the sun touches the horizon. Be that as it may, John
and Amanda - along with noted sailing author Nigel Calder - will
be presenting their annual Offshore Cruising Seminars in Seattle
on March 15 &16, in San Francisco on March 22 & 23, and
in Annapolis on March 29 & 30th. If you're interested in
an intensive introduction to offshore sailing by some regular
folks with an irregular amount of offshore experience, or in
one of the Mahina Expeditions, visit www.mahina.com.
And now for some unpleasant news in the Sea of Cortez. In November
of 1981, the Wanderer was sitting at the Ensenada Grande anchorage
at Isla Partida with his then wife Kathleen McCarthy aboard their
Freya 39 Contrary to Ordinary, when he said, "You
know, there ought to be a 'sailing week' out here at the end
of the cruising season like the one they have in Antigua."
So the Wanderer announced his modest plan in Latitude,
and come the following spring, 64 boats showed up for the first
ever Sea of Cortez Sailing Week. Thanks to great support from
cruisers in the area, the government, and local businesses, the
following year there were over 200 boats. The early years of
Sailing Week were pretty wild, with big fleets, big boats, and
even some big name sailors racing three times during the week.
There was also some hilarious men's bikini contests, some often
very saucy women's wet T-shirt contests, and all kinds of other
activities. After about five years of participation, the Wanderer
wearied of the political squabbles and people trying to make
big bucks out of the free event, so he backed away from it entirely.
For the last 10 or 15 years, the Sea of Cortez Sailing Week has
been run under the auspices of the Club Cruceros de La Paz, and
has evolved into a very different event. There's been very little
big boat racing, the shore activities aren't as wild and crazy,
and the number of participants is a small fraction of the glory
days. From what we've been told, in recent years it's mostly
been a very relaxed and mellow social gathering on the beach
at Caleta Partida with lots of games. Nonetheless, on the years
when there was an effective event chairperson and no intraclub
squabbles, we've been told that participants have had a great
time. However, in the years there wasn't an effective event chair,
Sailing Week apparently wasn't very good and didn't attract many
Here's where things get sticky. Clarke
Waters and Slade Ogletree of the Paradise Found YC Bar and Restaurant
in La Paz - which has an endless number of services, activities,
and deals catering specifically to cruisers - decided that they
wanted to revive some of the old time Sea of Cortez Sailing Week
pizzazz and numbers. So they decided to host their own event
called Sea of Cortez Island Madness in early April a couple of
anchorages over from the one being hosted by the Club Cruceros.
We at Latitude - thinking that what the Sailing Week could
really use is some of Clarke and Slade's high energy and enthusiasm
- suggested they try to combine forces with the Club Cruceros
for one great event.
The two groups did meet, but weren't able to work anything out.
"The Club voted us out despite what I thought was popular
support," writes Ogletree. "So the Paradise Found YC
Island Madness at Ensenada Grande will happen April 7-14 as planned.
End of subject." Marta Sutton of the Club Cruceros writes,
"Clarke did come to the club with a proposal for a merger,
but it was unacceptable for several reasons: 1) His choice of
the Ensenada Grande site; 2) His decision to exclude anyone from
the site who wished to bring their own beverages as opposed to
buying them from him; and 3) Most important of all, our club's
charter prevents us from joining forces with a profit-making
organization." Sutton says the Club Cruceros will hold Opening
Day for their 20th Sea of Cortez Sailing Week on April 5th in
La Paz, and their event will be held through the 14th at the
traditional site of Caleta Partida.
That the two events will be held nearly side by side on the same
dates will, in our opinion, soon spell disaster for one of the
two events. Given the fact that the Club Cruceros is rather moribund
compared to its heyday, and that the energetic Waters and Ogletrees
are fueled at least in part by the profit motive, we'll give
you one guess as to which is likely to come out on top. Nonetheless,
we wish the best of luck to both sponsoring organizations and
If you're a Southbounder who will be in the vicinity of Nicaragua
on March 15, consider stopping at the new Puesto del Sol Marina,
where Nicaraguan President Ingeniero Enrique Bolaños will
be doing the groundbreaking on the complex's 40-room hotel. The
project is the passion of retired San Diego engineer Roberto
Membrano, who still has his Kelly-Peterson 46 Puesto del Sol
at Paradise Marina near Puerto Vallarta, but already has his
67-ft motoryacht Carino del Mar on the site in Nicaragua.
Membrano reports that there is currently a 120-ft header for
the marina, with which the addition of several 60-ft fingers
will mean they'll be able to accomodate about 16 boats. In addition,
there are a number of mooring buoys. The berths and moorings
are free while the yacht club, restaurant, and hotel remain under
construction. They already have water and electricity, showers
and a laundry, and fuel can be trucked in. With 250 people working
on the project, progress is rapid. Puesto del Sol Marina is located
about five kilometers north of Corinto. When you get to 12°37'17"N
by 087°20'30", call the marina on 16 for directions
on coming in. The complex has already been named a port of entry
for the country, and officials are there waiting to clear boats
in. Knowing Membrano, we suspect this hotel and marina - far,
far from the bright lights of anywhere - have a stellar future.
"I'm singlehanding from Puerto Rico to Miami right now,"
reports Mike Harker of the Manhattan Beach-based Hunter 466 Wanderlust.
"Currently, I am about to enter the Old Bahama Channel off
the north coast of Cuba, and will be in the shipping separation
zone in about one hour. I'm taking Wanderlust back to
the Miami Boat Show where I bought her, as she'll be on display
again this year. I loved last month's cover of Latitude,
which was an aerial shot of my boat sailing out of English Harbor,
Antigua. In fact, Hunter wants to send a copy of the magazine
to all their dealers around the world! Latitude was the
first sailing magazine I ever read, and it's your fault that
I'm doing all this!"
Here's what Harker means by "doing all this". He took
up sailing shortly before the 2000 Baja Ha-Ha, which he did with his
Hunter 34 Wanderlust. The following spring he did the
Baja Bash singlehanded back to Southern California. In February
of last year, he bought his new Wanderlust at the Miami
show, then singlehanded her to the Azores. With crew, he continued
on to the Med, as far east as Italy, before sailing west to the
Canaries and back across the Atlantic to Antigua. That was 12,000
miles in 10 months. Harker is obviously a very quick study, and
an inspiration to those of you who want to jump into cruising
with both feet.
Mike Miller of the Ventura-based Vanguard 33 Uhuru, who
lovingly became known as the 'Lonely Guy' of Puerto Vallarta
for his dating habits, reports that he's sold Uhuru to
some great folks in Monterey. That means he's about to pursue
his dream of going to the Caribbean to try to find a Catana 43
catamaran. He's bummed, however, because there's already an Uhuru
II in those waters.
"Thanks for the ride aboard Profligate at Zihua Sail
Fest, which was a great event that benefitted everyone,"
writes Joe Scirica and Pipsqueak the cat of the Redondo Beach-based
Beneteau 40CC Music, currently anchored in Zihuatanejo.
"One of the activities of Sail Fest was the creation of
a Southbounders Guide on CD - with all kinds of information for
those of us heading south. Some of the cruisers here in Zihua
then asked if some of us Sea of Cortez vets could do a similar
Northbounders Guide for those headed to the Sea. So a group of
us got together and presented a two-hour seminar for about 30
skippers at Rick's Bar. Then Jerry King of Mirador spent
many hours putting together a web page from the web pages of
four other boats, and then made an auto-run CD. The CD contains
a wealth of information, pictures, personal accounts of passages
and anchorages, wind histories, and net schedules. This was purely
an amateur endeavor so the CD is not perfect, and it was made
to supplement rather than compete with the fine cruising guides
that are available. Now we're just trying to figure out how to
get them distributed. Any suggestions? By the way, my cat and
I spent the summer on both sides of the Sea of Cortez, crossed
from La Paz to Mazatlan for Thanksgiving, continued down to La
Cruz for Christmas, then anchorage-hopped to Zihua by the end
of January. Keep up the good work, for Latitude is currency
When last year's Puddle Jump group created the massive and informative
Puddle Jump Guide, they - based on the creation of the
two new guides - seem to have really created something. Hopefully
we'll be able to review both of them next month. As for distribution,
Joe, we'd just give a few copies to boats headed to the Sea of
Cortez. Since just about everybody has a CD burner aboard these
days, copies would spread like wildfire.
Speaking of the Sea of Cortez, while we were in Zihua last month
we spoke with a number of couples who spent most or all of last
summer in the Sea, and they didn't just like it, they loved it!
In fact, three of the couples had such a great time they have
rearranged their cruising plans to spend another summer in the
One of the couples was Patrick Abreu and Diane Ferguson of the
Seattle-based Hylas 42 Springbok. "Perhaps the best
thing we did was get scuba certified while in La Paz in March,"
says Diane. "During our May to October time in the Sea -
we spent the five hottest weeks back in the States - I did 60
dives while Patrick did 50. The water was unbelievably clear
and there were lots of fish. We did many dives with Terry Kennedy,
who has been diving in the Sea for the last 20 years. We did
one dive at Isla Fonsa, where we swam with about 40 hammerhead
sharks that were 10 to 12 feet long."
"Our favorite place in the Sea was San Marte, just south
of Agua Verde," adds Patrick. "It has a great reef
and beach, and the diving, hiking, and fishing are all wonderful."
If you ever meet the couple, ask them how hurricane Kenna wiped
out their Mexican wedding.
Other couples who loved the Sea of Cortez were Michael and Catharine
Whitby of the Vancouver-based Contessa 38 Breila; Jimmie
Zinn and Jane Hanawalt of the Richmond-based Morgan 38 Dry
Martini; and Chris Goode and Becky Swan of the Seattle-based
Crealock 40 Bonne Idée. The first two couples are
returning to the Sea this summer. All of these folks have very
nice, well-equipped cruising boats, and none of them are ultra
low budget cruisers. Nonetheless, they all remarked at how inexpensive
it was to cruise in the Sea - in part because there was hardly
any place to spend any money. All of the four couples said they
could easily cruise on $750/month, while some said there were
months where they only spent about $350. How many of you are
able to live a relaxed but adventurous, healthy, and exciting
life in the States for so little money?
After 30 years of the charter business and visits by an ever
growing number of cruising boats, many of the island-nations
of the Eastern Caribbean have awoken to the fact that sailing
brings in money. Lots of it. Governments in places such as Sint
Maarten, Antigua, the British Virgins, Martinique, St. Lucia,
and Grenada are realizing that small boat sailing and chartering
brings more revenue to their islands than do cruise ships. The
Moorings, for instance, is said to bring $100 million of revenue
to the Eastern Caribbean economies each year. As a result, several
of the islands have been investing in their sailing infrastructure,
and others are about to. One of the more recent examples is that
Grenada, the island of spices at the bottom of the chain, is
poised to approve plans for a new 360-boat harbor in St. Georges.
For their part, cruisers are trying to inform governments that
raising clearing and other fees is a way to drive away rather
than attract sailors.
When Jonathan 'Bird' Livingston and Susie Grubler of the Richmond-based
Wylie 38 Punk Dolphin, currently in Lahaina, flew to New
Zealand to take in the last of the Louis Vuitton racing and do
a little cruising, they were guests aboard Garrett Loube's San
Francisco-based X-442 Bravura. As Bird laughingly tells
the story, a third guest was San Francisco's Russell Long, who
was best known in his youth for being the owner-driver of his
own America's Cup campaign - Liberty, 198X - when he was
just 21-years-old. Now that he's older, Long is best known for
starting the Bluewater Network, a very effective environmental
organization that didn't quite succeed in getting all two-stroke
outboards outlawed, but was instrumental in getting legislation
passed that paved the way for the popularity of low horsepower
four-stroke outboards. The funny thing is that Loube had been
using a two-stroke Yamaha outboard for his dinghy until he learned
that Long was on his way. By the time Long arrived, the two-stroke
had been replaced by a 2 hp Honda four-stroke.
"We're in Tahiti again after a six-month absence,"
write Al and Debbie Farner of the San Francisco-based Valiant
40 Different Worlds. "We'd left the boat in Pt. Phaeton,
which turned out to be a great experience. We'd recommend it
to anyone, but it's a small place so get your reservations in
early. We'd also like to tell this year's Puddle Jumpers that
if they stop in Fatu Hiva before the other islands in the Marquesas,
the officials will make you leave after a day or two to go to
an official port of entry. At least this is what happened to
one of the first boats that came across this year, arriving on
We emailed the Farners back for the very latest on the visa situation
in French Polynesia, and this was their reply: "We've heard
that you can get only a 30-day visa here, but we've also heard
that you can get a three-month visa, so we don't know for sure.
We arrived with a three-month visa we'd obtained from the French
Consulate in Los Angeles, and didn't have any problem. Friends
of ours got their three-month visa from the French Consulate
in Panama, although it took them three days. To be on the safe
side, we suggest getting a three-month visa in the States before
coming over. Three months is still not nearly enough time for
such a wonderful place, but we'll see how it works out."
Tired of the relatively murky waters of the Pacific Coast of
Mexico? Then you might want to try the Revillagigedo Islands,
where Pete Boyce of the San Francisco-based Sabre 402 Edelweiss
III reports he could clearly see his anchor in 65 feet of
water. The Revillagigedos are a chain of volcanic islands roughly
250 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, which puts them out in
the middle of nowhere. Formerly a popular spot for the long term
charter fishing boats out of San Diego, the islands are now a
marine and wildlife preserve. It's a good thing, too, because
they are home to lots of whales, huge rays, sharks, and countless
other forms of sea life. You can't go to the islands without
a permit, and in the past getting a permit has been tricky if
not impossible. But Boyce got one in just 90 days - hey, it's
Mexico - through John M. Riffe in La Paz. Here's the catch -
the permit cost $600 for about 10 days! So it's not for economy
Boyce sailed to Isla Socorro from Puerto Vallarta with Stef and
Marilyn Thordarson, who cruised their Tacoma-based Tayana 37
Circe in Mexico for years, and Sue Strembitsky of Calgary,
Canada. It took the foursome 2.5 days, mostly under sail, to
reach the islands. It was predominantly close and broad reaching
in winds under 17 knots with gentle three to six foot seas. They
hooked a 50-lb yellowfin tuna 100 miles out. Fishing is not allowed
at the Revillagigedo Islands, and neither is going ashore. The
friendly Mexican Navy, which maintains a base on the islands,
checks in with visiting boats each day. Boyce reports the snorkeling
was excellent, as they saw many tropical fish, white tip sharks,
dusky sharks, a whale with two calves, and lots of other interesting
stuff. The water was pleasant, in the high 70s, but the anchorage
was always a little rolly. Also at the islands were Steve and
Barbara Campbell of the Leadville, Colorado-based Valiant 40
Blue Chablis. Apparently they sail out to the Revillagigedos
every year. If you're looking for tiendas, restaurants, hiking,
and white sand beaches, the Revillagigedos are precisely the
wrong place. But if you want to get away to great diving that
few others get to experience, and you've got a pile of big bucks
laying around, you might consider applying for a permit. Boyce
says he hopes to return. The group's return sail to Puerto Vallarta
was a beat followed by a close reach in winds up to 20 knots.
It took three days, about 30% of it motoring.
"That was a great 'Lectronic Latitude piece on the
Revillagigedo Islands on February 7," write Dave and Merry
Wallace of the Redwood City-based Amel Maramu Air Ops.
"The mention of Steve and Barb Campbell on Blue Chablis
reminded me of a conversation we overheard on a Ham net last
winter. A cruiser asked Barb if Steve was having any luck fishing.
"Well, he's catching a lot of heads," was Barb's reply.
Of course, that generated the obvious next question, for which
the answer was that he was catching lots of fish, but the sharks
were getting most of each fish before he could land them. Steve
does most of his fishing from their dinghy, and reported that
another time a shark took a bite out of one of the air chambers.
Fortunately, the other two chambers held enough air so that he
could get back to Blue Chablis! Steve truly does know
how to catch fish, and last year gave an excellent fishing-for-cruisers
presentation at Loreto Fest. I imagine they will be there again
this year, the first weekend in May. Barb sells a terrific cookbook
with all the recipes being from cruisers."
If you think that Revillagigedo Islands are the only place where
sharks steal the majority of your fish, check out the accompanying
photo of Laurie Matthews. She and her husband Mark of the Sausalito-based
S&S 35 Althea were getting ripped off by sharks at
Panama's San Blas Islands.
A great new cruising destination on the Pacific Coast of Mexico?
David Jensen of the Mazatlan-based Hopalong reports that
the Tres Marias Islands, currently a penal colony about 60 miles
north of Banderas Bay, may become "a nature preserve open
for the promotion of eco-tourism." This according to a February
13 article in Noroeste, a daily Spanish language newspaper in
Mazatlan. The article said prisoners would be moved off the islands
by mid-March, and that a private concessionaire is expected to
operate the reserve. Emilio Azcarraga, president of Televisa,
is said to be the principal investor in the project.
Who is Emilio Azcarraga? If we're not mistaken, his father -
who died young of cancer several years ago - controlled much
of television in Mexico. Apparently his son does now. We've also
heard that the father once gave Dennis Conner several million
dollars at the end of an America's Cup campaign that was critical
in Conner hanging onto the Cup. On the victorious trip back to
the dock, Conner held up a huge sign that read, "Thanks
Emilio!" You know Larry Ellison's ultra-luxurious 235-ft
motoryacht Katana that was his home base in New Zealand?
It was originally owned by Azcarraga.
The Tres Marias are three - duh - islands an average of seven
miles in diameter, with a number of smaller islands including
sizeable Isla San Juanito. The three main islands are volcanic
and quite barren, but have peaks as high as 2,000 feet. They
are spread out along a stretch of water about 45 miles some 60
miles west of San Blas. They would be a spectacular addition
to the cruising delights of Mexico - and surfers would be sure
to attack the place in search of new breaks. However, we don't
have any details on how or when the islands might be accessible,
and if the permits to go there might be as expensive as those
to go to the Revillagigedos. One last juicy tidbit; Jensen says
that, "according to legend, the Tres Marias were once the
home of a tribe of women - beautiful, of course - who only had
contact with males a few times a year, and only for commercial
and procreation purposes."
"We took delivery of our new Amel Super Maramu 53 ketch
Notre Vie - 'Our Life' - in La Rochelle, France, on January
13," report Ken Burnap and Nancy Gaffney of the Santa Cruz
YC. The couple used to own the SC 50 Roller Coaster. "It's
hard to believe we've been here two weeks, as it's gone so fast.
At times it's been depressing, but mostly it's been exciting
and fun. It was bitterly cold but sunny when we arrived in La
Rochelle. Then the weather turned ugly: colder, no sun, ripping
wind, and pouring down rain. It wasn't rainy the day we moved
aboard, but it was cold. Sometime during our first night, we
were awakened by crunching footsteps on the deck. It turned out
to be a very large bird walking on the ice on the decks! Because
of the weather, our one week indoctrination took two weeks. But
it's now complete, the weather has made a huge turn for the better,
and we've had some great sailing. We are really starting to have
Also having fun is Blair Grinols and friends aboard his 46-ft
Capricorn Cat in the Marshall Islands. He's diving and
sailing like a madman, and sending so so many daily reports that
we haven't had time to distill them all. Maybe next month.
Flash! Oh no, not more of that nonsense! Thanks to the efforts
of overzealous ecologists, on December 31 a law was passed in
Mexico instituting a $2/person/day fee for going ashore on any
of the islands in the Sea of Cortez. If that weren't bad enough,
visitors are supposed to get a permit - which as in the case
of clearing in - requires that same old silly business of going
to an agency to apply for a permit, going to the bank to pay
for the permit, and going back to the agency to pick up the permit.
Further, you have to specify in advance what days you'll be going
ashore. Fortunately, at this time there is nobody to collect
the money or enforce the law, but it's on the books, so eventually
you can expect it will be enforced.
Oddly enough, in the face of these anti-cruiser regulations and
procedures, there seems to be an explosion of marinas in La Paz.
Fonatur is apparently beginning to develop the marina basin far
inside the bay that's been dormant for years. In addition, the
luxury Costa Baja project at the entrance to La Paz Bay - complete
with high end condos and golf courses - had President Fox come
from Mexico City for groundbreaking. Finally, we're told that
all the permits have been obtained for yet another marina next
to Marina Palmira. These three marinas would add about an additional
750 berths to the area, far in excess of what there's actually
a market for - particularly since the Mexican government seems
intent on making life a pain for visiting mariners.
"We're in Ft. Myers, Florida, after having had our 30-ft
Catalac catamaran Spindrift trucked from San Carlos, Mexico,
to Houston, Texas," report Ron and Linda Caywood. "We
spent last winter at South Padre Island, Texas, and most recently
took Spindrift from Texas to Florida via the IntraCoastal
Waterway. You motor every step of the way in the Waterway except
for 150 miles across the big bend of Florida. Be ready for major
price increases as you move east. West of Mobile Bay, we paid
between $6 and $20/night for berthing. East of it, prices skyrocketed
to $1.75/foot/night - because of all the powerboats coming down
the Tenn-Tom Waterway on their way to Florida. Here in Ft. Myers,
we pay $1.25/ft/night, plus a $50 liveaboard fee, plus $15 for
electricity - for a total of $418 a month. We emailed a marina
near Annapolis for a quote on a month's stay - it was $975 for
a 30-footer! So we plan on doing a lot of anchoring out. Then
there's the bugs. It's not even summer and you have to wear mosquito
repellant because of West Nile Fever. We don't mean to sound
negative, but going to the East Coast isn't like we imagined.
Tell our friends in Mexico that we'll be back!"
Don't forget, there will be a Ha-Ha Reunion at Sail Expo in Oakland
on Friday, April 25, 6-8 p.m. We hope to see you there!