With reports this month from
Serenity on the only very mildly
improved clearing situation at Ensenada; from the Wanderer on
how much Banderas Bay has changed
and continues to change; from Metaphor
on where to get your boat hauled and launched for $3/ft in California;
from Chewbacca on Panama Canal transits;
from Harmony on being the Mayor of
Tenacatita Bay; and Cruise Notes.
Serenity - Whitby 42
Paul & Debi Shaimas
We arrived in Ensenada the day President Fox was in town to open
the Centro Integral de Servicios, which is the one stop check-in/check-out
facility for mariners. Although we did our arrival paperwork
through Baja Naval - Roger Greg of Baja Naval was great, and
we highly recommend him and Baja Naval itself - we opted to do
our own check-out. The Centro office is next door to the Port
Captain's building. Inside are five numbered windows: Migracion
(Immigration), Capitania de Puerto (Port Captain), Conapesca
(Fishing License), Aduana (Customs) and Banjercita (Bank). Cruisers
start at Window 1 (Migracion) and then work their way around
to the various windows.
We've got some tips for others who follow us: 1) Take multiple
copies of everything you think they might need. For departure,
we needed five copies of our despacho (leaving) crew list; a
copy of our stamped and signed arribo (arrival) crew list; receipt
for the payments we made for the arrival paperwork; a copy of
our Temporary Import Permit; copies of our passports; originals
of our passports; original visas; and a paid invoice from Baja
Naval to show that we had no outstanding bills. We left with
most of the paperwork; they just needed to see it.
For arrivals and departures, plan one trip to take your paperwork
in in the morning, and another to receive your stamped and approved
crew list in the afternoon. When they say 'one stop', it doesn't
mean that you're done in one trip. If you arrive late in the
day, you will need to come back the following morning to pick
up the paperwork. For departures on Saturday or Sunday, you must
process the departure papers on Friday. Since you must depart
within 48 hours, it would appear that Monday morning departures
are not possible. Fees for Migracion, Conapesca or Aduana are
paid at the Banjercita window. Fees for Capitania de Puerto are
paid at their window - not the Banjercita window - using Mastercard
or Visa. If you only have cash or an ATM card to pay the Capitania
de Puerto, you have to go to a bank in town to make the payment,
then return with the receipt.
We tried to use Captain Rain's Lista de Tripulantes from the
Mexico Boating Guide, but were advised that it can only
be used for departures, not arrivals. As near as we can figure
out, the arrival form is the same as the departure form - except
it does not list subsequent destinations. In either case, the
Migracion window has blank copies of the form that can be filled
out on the spot.
We were disappointed to realize that the 'one check in/check
out' procedure applies to each port, rather than to the entire
country. But from what we have heard of the 'paperwork cha-cha'
- a la Captain Rains - even this is a major improvement. Cruisers
should show support for the Centro Integral de Servicios so that
the program can be expanded to other ports more quickly.
- paul and debi 2/05/05
Bay Is Booming
(Banderas Bay, Mexico)
While in Puerto Vallarta last month, we took a walk along the
shops that line Marina Vallarta - and were taken aback by a series
of dated photographs in the window of a realty office. They showed
that 15 years ago there was no Marina Vallarta, no Marina Iguana
housing development with docks in the back, no Opequimar Boatyard,
and only a couple of moderate-size hotels.
How things have changed. The 400-berth marina has not only been
built, it's already become a little scruffy. Nonetheless, there's
a waiting list for slips during the winter. And it's not just
small and medium-sized boats in the marina anymore. Mr. and Mrs.
Mini-Megayacht have decided to base their vessels out of the
marina, too. Marina Iguana sold out years ago, and all the prices
have skyrocketed. Opequimar is a bee hive of boat repair activity.
And the condo-hotel development between the marina and the bay
- well, let's just say that the projects are large and there
are lots of them.
As for Puerto Vallarta in general, it's also been booming. The
Sam's Club and Wal-Mart have been around for several years, the
four-lane road to the northern part of Banderas Bay is a couple
of years old now, and more hotels are being planned and built.
The fact that some hotels got battered by 30-ft waves from a
hurricane a few years ago has not stopped developers. The Venetian,
a complex of three 31-story towers, is going to be built near
the Holiday Inn. As for the cruise ship terminal next to Marina
Vallarta, its capacity is being tripled.
Life in Puerto Vallarta seems to be pretty good and getting better
for both locals and the growing population of ex-pats. We talked
to taxi drivers and waiters at normal restaurants, and they reported
that workers such as themselves are able to afford their own
homes a few miles in from the water. One waiter told us that
15 years ago many children would go a week or more without any
milk or meat. He said that even most of the very poor kids now
get some kind of decent nourishment on a regular basis.
Rather than going downhill with time, Puerto Vallarta seems to
be getting cleaner - and rapidly moving upmarket. Many of the
new condos and hotels are luxury class, and there are more trendy
restaurants than ever. The proof that P.V. may really have arrived
is that exclusive Nikki Beach has opened up a branch. These are
the folks who brought beds to the beach, and previously only
had clubs in St. Tropez, Miami, and St. Barth.
When it comes to attracting visitors, Puerto Vallarta has been
blessed with a terrific location, as it's the closest non-desert
tropical area to the U.S. and Canada. It might come as a surprise
to a lot of people, but Puerto Vallarta is closer to Chicago
and most of the Midwest than are places like the Virgin Islands,
St. Martin, and Antigua. Indeed, it's the same distance as from
New York to down island in the Caribbean. For Northern Californians,
it's just a three-hour flight.
When it comes to appealing to folks who like or have to 'commuter
cruise', Mexico has two distinct advantages over the Caribbean
and Hawaii. Number one, the people of Mexico are incredibly friendly.
They don't do Caribbean surly, and they don't have to be encouraged
to live aloha.
Secondly, for those who forswear marinas and gaudy tourist restaurants,
Puerto Vallarta, like the rest of Mexico, is dirt cheap compared
to the Caribbean and Hawaii. Blair and Joan Grinols of Capricorn
Cat told us they went to market day at a little village near
Paradise Marina and paid just $10 for about 30 pounds of excellent-looking
fruits and veggies. As for dining out, every cruiser in the area
can suggest places - such as the fruit and veggie market behind
Wal-Mart - where you can stuff yourself with delicious food for
less than $5.
Puerto Vallarta, which has a population of 250,000, occupies
a relatively small stretch of coast on 15-mile by 15-mile Banderas
Bay - which just happens to be one of the most pleasant sailing
areas of the world. As we've reported numerous times, Banderas
Bay has the most consistent good sailing breeze in Mexico, with
between eight and 18 knots of wind almost every day. By sunset
on most days, the wind dies completely, and things become muy
tranquilo. Rarely does the bay - except for the southwest tip
near Cabo Corrientes, the 'Point Conception of mainland Mexico'
- become any rougher than San Francisco Bay. Most of the time
it's quite calm. Because the eight-mile long northern shore of
Banderas Bay is shallow and well-protected from ocean swells,
even monohull sailors can drop the hook virtually anywhere and
spend a comfortable night - or month.
The negative for Banderas Bay is that the water doesn't have
the clarity of the Caribbean, Hawaii, or even the Sea of Cortez.
Visibility is best on the north shore and out by the Tres Mariettas
Islands, where you can often see 10 to 25 feet. On the other
hand, Banderas Bay teems with bird and sea life. It would almost
be unusual, for example, not to see at least one whale on a 15-mile
sail between Puerto Vallarta and Punta Mita in the winter. They
are everywhere. There are also plenty of dolphins, rays, and
other fish, as well as a variety of birds. The place is alive.
Located at the northern end of Mexico's Gold Coast, Banderas
Bay is less than 125 miles from great cruising spots such as
Chamela, Careyes, Tenacatita Bay, and Barra de Navidad. But there
are so many attractions within Banderas Bay itself that it's
sometimes hard to leave:
- You still can't get anywhere near jungle-covered Yelapa except
by boat, and this center of simple and alternative living hasn't
changed at all in 30 years. Make sure you anchor well, however.
At the north end of the Bay is Punta Mita, where we like to hang
out on Profligate. It's a fine anchorage that often sees
10 to 20 boats on the hook - and could easily accomodate hundreds.
Starting with a Four Seasons Hotel and a Jack Nicklaus-designed
golf course that mere mortals aren't allowed to visit, the entire
Punta Mita area shore has rapidly gone extremely upscale. Shoreline
lots now run into the millions, and compounds sell for many times
that amount. When we surfed the nearby La Launcha break two winters
ago, there were no homes in the area. Now there are numerous
gated estates and compounds with guards on the beach. Fortunately,
Mexican law requires that the 60 feet shoreward from the high
tide line always be open to the public.
Speaking of surf, Punta Mita is home to at least four good breaks,
from a terrific learner's break in front of the palapa restaurants,
to the very long and hot sections - though between and over rocks
- at Inside El Faro. Because it's easiest to access all but one
of these breaks by dinghy, sailor-surfers often get entire breaks
to themselves. Punta Mita is a major surfing venue for women,
many of whom aren't self-conscious about their bodies. We don't
know what you ladies are thinking when you surf wearing a dental
floss thong, but it sure makes the paddle out seem shorter for
us guys behind you.
About eight miles to the east is La Cruz, an open roadstead that's
normally the calmest part of Banderas Bay. This free anchorage
is a very popular hangout with budget cruisers - although somebody
really needs to do something about cleaning up the beach where
the dinghies land. It's littered with everything from a smashed-up
San Francisco-based trimaran to all kinds of litter.
Philo's is one of the main attractions in La Cruz - and indeed
all of Banderas Bay. In 2000, Philo Hayward of Mendocino County
did the Ha-Ha with his Cal 36 Cherokee Spirit, and a few
months later visited and fell in love with La Cruz. He bought
some property and opened up a bar, restaurant, music center,
recording studio, community center, internet cafe and what have
you. He's in business to make money, of course, but his greater
priorities are helping out the La Cruz and cruising communities.
Hayward tells us that a Mexican company is about to start transforming
the little breakwater and spit into a 120-berth marina. Nobody
will really believe it until they see some action, but we suspect
there would be tremendous demand for the berths.
A little more than halfway between La Cruz and Puerto Vallarta
is Paradise Resort and Marina - the latter being presided over
by Harbormaster Dick Markie. It seems like just a couple of years
ago they put in their first 13 slips. Now there are over 200,
and Markie could probably fill another 100. In addition, they
have a big dry storage yard. Once primarily a haven for relatively
affluent cruisers, it's now become popular with ever larger motoryachts.
If you want a place in Paradise Village in the winter, make your
reservations early - very early.
Paradise Marina is home to the Banderas Bay Regatta, held in
March, and the Vallarta YC. Commodore Jim Ketler tells us that
the Vallarta YC has some 300 members and is thus the largest
"real yacht club" in Mexico. (The Acapulco YC is a
business rather than a traditional yacht club.) The marina and
yacht club facilities are top quality and are well-maintained.
There are plenty of showers and clean and functioning heads.
If it's got the Paradise name on it, you can count on excellent
The big difference between Paradise Marina and Marina Vallarta
are their locations. Marina Vallarta is right off P.V.'s main
road, is close to downtown, and is surrounded by restaurants
and tall condos. If you like to be close to stores and the downtown
action, that's the place to be. Marina Paradise, on the other
hand, is located on a quiet lagoon on the backside of a big resort.
It's a much more lovely, natural, and quiet site, but it's about
20 minutes by taxi from downtown.
With great sailing, surfing, fishing, whale-watching, and jungle
trips, as well as everything from isolated anchorages to hip
city life, in a very inexpensive and salubrious tropical environment,
Banderas Bay has got it all. Over the past 15 years, it's become
home to an ever-growing population of snowbirding and retired
Americans and Canadians. In the next 15 years, we expect it will
probably grow just as much, primarily along the north shore.
The good thing about having a cruising boat on Banderas Bay is,
that no matter how many people move in, it's still going to be
a cruising paradise, with great weather, great sailing conditions,
great places to anchor, and miles of isolated beaches for strolling.
The Wanderer's perfect week on Banderas Bay?
Day One - Arrive from San Francisco in afternoon, go into P.V.
for the evening to walk around the city, absorb the atmosphere,
and enjoy a nice meal.
Day Two - Make the 12-mile sail to Punta Mita - always upwind
- and surf that afternoon. That evening enjoy a delicous but
inexpensive meal on the second floor of the El Dorado restaurant
- which overlooks the surf break and the anchored cruising boats.
Day Three - Surf until rubber-armed. At 2 p.m., set an asymmetrical
sail for the 12-mile broad reach/downwind run to Paradise Marina.
There's often nice wind, particularly at the beginning of this
leg, so Profligate commonly hits the mid-teens in flat
water. As soon as the boat is tied off, we drag our aching bones
off to the pool for a swim and a mai-tai in the hot-tub. It doesn't
matter if we don't get out of the water until 8 p.m., because
the air is still plenty warm. Finally we ease on over to the
little mall for either a delicious $7 Mexican dinner or the $17
all-you-can-eat churrascaria extravaganza at Brazil restaurant.
Day Four - Repeat the Day One through Day Three sequence. If
there's no surf, perhaps spend a day and night exploring Yelapa
or taking in a night of live music and dancing at Philo's in
La Cruz. In Banderas Bay, you're never more than 12 miles away
We're of the opinion that both the sailing on Banderas Bay and
the Banderas Bay experience are underappreciated by much of the
world. But we think that's going to change drastically in the
next five years. We weren't at all surprised to learn that J/World
will be opening up a year-round facility based out of Marina
Paradise starting next fall. We bet they'll do gangbusters.
Given that Banderas Bay is so close to California and such a
great place for folks to learn to sail, surf, and cruise, we've
always wondered why nobody ever did any such four to seven-day
adventure charters. Since nobody has ever seemed interested,
Doña de Mallorca is in the process of getting Profligate
legal to do just that on a limited basis starting in December.
- latitude 02/20/05
Metaphor - Hallberg-Rassy 31
In Praise Of The Central Coast
In the past Latitude has mentioned they hardly ever hear
from sailors on the Central Coast of California - so I thought
I'd change that. After having my new-to-me Hallberg-Rassy 31
Monsun shipped from Chicago to Port San Luis, and working
every day for nine weeks on her in the boatyard, I finally launched
her. (No, Marty, I'm not on drugs, I just loved working on my
new boat.) My sail up to Morro Bay went well, and we even had
three large gray whales greet us about three miles south of Morro
The point of my writing is that I can't say enough good things
about my nine weeks at the Port San Luis Boatyard. It's a relatively
small and quiet yard with only room for about 20 boats. But I
bet that it's probably the least expensive and most user-friendly
do-it-yourself yard in California. Owners Marty and Del, along
with employees Bob and Billy, were very helpful and free with
good advice. Although there was a waiting list to get into the
yard, Marty was kind enough to work my boat into the schedule
because she needed some essential repairs before she could go
back into the water. Marty is the one who runs the Travel-Lift
and who manages the small chandlery. What he doesn't have on
hand, he can get with a day's notice.
I couldn't believe my good luck with the weather. I worked in
a T-shirt - and some days a tank top - from November 15 until
January 23! One of the nice things about Port San Luis is that
when you need a break from working on your boat, you can walk
out on the pier and enjoy some delicious Mexican food at Pete's
Pierside Cafe. Ummm good.
The only downside with Port San Luis is that you must haul or
launch on a high tide, and there can't be a south swell running.
Fortunately, this didn't affect my timing, as I finished my work
between the wild weather systems that had been showing up from
the southwest all winter.
Anyway, thanks guys, it was a wonderful boatyard experience.
- phil 02/08/05
Chewbacca - Crowther 33 Cat
The Winship Family
Panama Canal Transit
With another winter cruising season nearing an end, many cruisers
in Mexico will be headed to and through the Panama Canal. We
have some insights.
Many cruisers think the Canal is more complicated than it really
is. In reality, it's quite simple. If you're going from the Pacific
side to the Caribbean side - which, oddly enough, means you'll
be going from the southeast to the northwest - gravity-fed water
from Lake Chagres lifts your boat a total of 84 feet in a series
of three chambers in two locks that are less than a mile apart.
Once at the higher elevation, you motor 45 miles across Panama,
including the Continental Divide, to a series of three chambers
in two locks on the Caribbean side. There you are lowered 84
feet back down to sea level, completing your transit. That's
right, except for brief locking on each side, most of a Panama
Canal transit consists of motoring across Gaillard Cut and Lake
Chagres - the latter of which looks a lot like the Delta.
The devil can be in the details, of course, so like many other
cruisers, we did our first transit as line-handlers on someone
else's boat. Once you're familiar with the procedures, you're
more confident transiting with your own boat. Our first trip
was aboard Jim and Kate Bondoux's Northern California-based triple-deck
Cheoy Lee 60 motorsailer Lionesse. Although Lionesse
didn't need line-handlers, having hired four professionals, when
Kate found out it was our 25th wedding anniversary, she invited
us aboard as guests. Kate is a fireball of fun, and was well
known in Mexico for whipping through anchorages and breaking
down the stupid barrier that sometimes exists between 'stink-pots'
There's a lot of paperwork involved with a Canal transit, and
there are several options for getting it taken care of. There
are expensive ship's agents, such as Pete Stevens or Tina McBride,
who charge a minimum of $500. There are less expensive ship's
agents such as Enrique Plummer, who charges only $200. There
is also a group of well-versed taxi drivers who will guide you
through the process for less then $50 - their cab fees included.
Or you can do it yourself.
Jim and Kate opted to use the services of ship's agent Pete Stevens,
who admits he's been around "forever". Because Lionesse
is so big, she was assigned a Canal Pilot to guide her through
the Canal as opposed to a mere Advisor (pilot-in-training), which
is all that is required on smaller boats. The transit itself
went smoothly, and we learned a lot by watching. When it looked
like we would be late in arriving on the Colon side of the Canal,
we called the Panama Canal YC for a slip. Although the yacht
club docks were full, Stevens, having anticipated our need, had
somehow managed to wrangle a slip for us. So when we arrived,
I fired up the BBQ on Lionesse's 'patio' while Kate chose
the correct wine to go with the pork loin medallions. What a
For our second trip through the Canal, we wanted to be actual
line-handlers rather than just observers. Luckily for us, a catamaran
about the size of our 33-footer was in need of a couple of line-handlers.
It turned out they'd used Enrique Plummer, the lower-priced ship's
agent, to do their paperwork. He provided all the Canal paperwork,
immigration check-in, check-out, visas, and international zarpes
for just $200. It was a total turn-key operation for a yacht
coming to Panama, transiting the Canal, and exiting the country.
The owner of the cat never had to leave his boat to get all the
paperwork done and fees paid. When I asked Plummer if he considered
himself to be the agent for small cruising yachts only, he showed
me some paperwork he was doing for a 200-foot megayacht, and
other paperwork for a 26-foot sailboat. He insisted that both
boats would get the same attention and service from him.
We'd actually met Plummer a week earlier when we needed to get
our frazzled Compaq laptop fixed. Not only a maritime agent,
Plummer considers himself an expert on knowing where to get things
taken care of in Panama at an American pace. So instead of shipping
our laptop to the 'black hole' that is the Compaq service center
back in the United States, he scooted us in the back door of
the Compaq service center in Panama. A day later our laptop was
not only fixed, but had an upgraded operating system! Plummer,
having worked in the Atlantic City hospitality industry in the
States, knows what Americans expect in terms of service - and
Indeed, in just a short amount of time, Plummer had earned a
reputation among cruisers as a guy who could 'get things done'
- but also as a genuine friend. After we did our second transit,
we saw Plummer at the Balboa YC, where he asked if we had chosen
an agent for our own Canal transit. We explained that we were
on a limited budget, and since we had some free time, wanted
to see if we could do it ourselves. We were prepared to get the
cold shoulder because we weren't going to use his services -
but needn't have. Plummer sat down with us and outlined all the
steps we would need to go through - and warned of what pitfalls
to watch out for!
Specifically, he told us we would first need to have the required
lines (four of them, each 120 feet long) for the Admeasurer to
see. Since we didn't have any that met the specification,
he arranged to have the four lines delivered to our boat the
morning before the Admeasurer showed up. He also advised
us where to get the all-important extra fenders - tires wrapped
in plastic - for free, saving us another $30 or so.
Based on Plummer's advice, the next day we called the Admeasurer's
Office to schedule an Admeasurer to visit our boat. I began the
conversation in my halting 'Spanglish' - and was surprised to
hear the secretary reply in perfect English. We were told that
our Admeasurer would arrive the next day between 9 a.m. and 11
a.m. - a tighter time span than the cable companies give back
home. The Admeasurer came aboard Chewbacca at 10 a.m.,
armed with a tape measure and a small pile of forms. After checking
our requisite four lines and fenders, he then measured the length
and width of Chewbacca - right down to the nearest inch!
Even though every boat less than 50 feet pays the same price
- $500 - and width doesn't matter, the Canal Commission wants
to know if your boat can be squeezed into the same lock as a
We then got to work on the forms, which had questions about our
boat's draft, motor type, cruising speed, gross tonnage, bow
thrusters, and so forth. Luckily, most of the forms dealt with
types of cargo, frozen meat, and contagious diseases - so the
Admeasurer put a big 'X' through them and moved on. The only
strange thing is that when he saw Rascal, our pet squirrel, he
listed him as 'crew'! After he reviewed all the forms, I signed
in about a dozen places, freeing the Canal Commission of any
liability should they happen to crush our little home in one
of their locks. After less than 30 minutes, the Admeasurer
was on his way.
After he left, we had to take the forms to the bank to pay our
transit fees. Citibank is the only bank that will accept
the payment for the ACP (Panama Canal Authority), and you can
pay in cash or with a Visa credit card. It was a 40-minute walk,
allowing for an ice cream stop, or a $2 cab ride to the bank.
After 6 p.m. on the day you pay, you can call the ACP scheduling
office and request a date for transit. Once again my Spanglish
was answered in English, and we were set to transit on the following
Monday, five days hence.
So far everything was going well, but we had yet to tackle the
Maritime Office, which checks the cruising permits; the port
captain, which issues the exit zarpes; and finally Immigration,
which puts exit stamps on all the passports. To avoid the Saturday
overtime fees, we decided to head out on Friday morning to knock
out this last bit of paperwork. I knew roughly where these
offices were clumped together on the Pacific side, a few miles
away near Pier 18. But the warren of poorly-marked offices intimidated
me. A couple of cruisers walked their paperwork through
with no problems by exploring their way through the buildings. Some
less-adventurous cruisers had used 'Taxi Tony' to shepherd them
through the Canal transit paper mill, so when I saw his cab parked
outside the Balboa YC, I thought it was providence signalling
me. For $8 an hour, Tony takes you to the offices, performs the
initial introductions, and then fades away until you are done
with your business. Then he reappears to guide you to the next
office. I would have been hard-pressed to find these offices
on my own - even if I'd been set on the doorstep of the buildings.
First, we had to stop at Banco National (yes, another bank) near
Pier 18 to buy our $4 stamps for the Maritime Office. Luckily,
we had used a cab, because the bank recently moved to a newer
location, and that would have added another mile to my tired
feet. 'Taxi Tony' took my $4 and headed straight for the
Jubilado, which is the line for the retired people, saving me
a half hour wait in a line that went out the door. Fifteen minutes
later, we were sitting pretty in the air-conditioned Maritime
The two ladies asked when we were transiting the canal. "Monday,"
we said, grinning like kids at our first day at school. They
shook their heads in disappointment. "You have to come back
on Saturday, because you can't check out until 48 hours before
your transit time," they said. Under the smiles I knew they
forgot to add, "And by the way, it will be $20 extra for
our overtime tomorrow." With the cab clock running, we did
the last bit of our provisioning, and still made it back to the
boat in an hour.
We returned with 'Taxi Tony' the next morning, and were greeted
by the same ladies who took our $4 in bank stamps, $4.20 in cash
(correct change only, please), and our $20 bonus for doing business
on Saturday. From there we took our newly stamped forms next
door to the port captain's office. The sign on the door read,
"Be back in two hours".
While we were stewing on what to do, we met yet another ship's
agent, Tina McBride, who was handling the paperwork for several
"small yachts", as she put it, the smallest being a
50-foot Amel. When I asked her what she charged, she said a minimum
of $500. I gave out a low whistle. Turning to 'Taxi Tony',
she replied, "Well, you get what you pay for."
Well, so far we were into the process for one hour and 15 minutes,
and at $8 an hour, I felt we were doing pretty good with 'Taxi
Tony' - even with the $20 in overtime charges. We asked Tony
to take us to the mall where we could get something to eat to
kill a couple of hours. He let us out at the shopping plaza and
stopped the clock, saying he would pick us up in 90 minutes.
The kids spread through the food court, and after a Pizza Hut
thick-crust combo pizza and a Dairy Queen M&M Blizzard -
we were, after all, in Panama City - we were back at the port
captain's office for our international zarpe, and then over to
the next building for our passports to be exit-stamped. In
a half hour we were done! We had 15 minutes of time left with
Tony, so on the way back to the boat he took us on a quick tour
around the old Canal Zone buildings and officers' quarters. Tony
jokingly told us that he used to be a boxer, so for $8 an hour
we not only got an 'agent' and tour guide, but a bodyguard, too!
I asked Tony if there were other taxi drivers who could take
cruisers through the canal paperwork, and he instantly rattled
off a half dozen names. "But," he added, "I think
Taxi Tony is the best." When asked if he had ever considered
becoming a maritime agent, he said that becoming a registered
maritime agent carries tremendous responsibilities and financial
outlay that he was not prepared for. He enjoys taking cruisers
through the steps of the paperwork jungle and letting them get
intimately involved in the process.
When we transited on Monday, you couldn't see our normal waterline,
for not only were we sporting 10 heavy tires hanging from our
stanchions, but also 90 pounds of rented rope, provisions and
fuel for the coming months in the San Blas Islands - as well
as 10 people! April's parents Bill and Betty Rogers from Redding
had joined us for the Canal adventure, and our niece Carrie from
New York had come down for the transit and some time in the San
Blas Islands. In addition, we had Tom and Carmen from Crow's
Nest to help handle the lines. With the addition of Francisco,
our wonderful Canal Advisor, and the four in our immediate family,
it came to a total of 10 people.
The pilot boat delivered Francisco at 9 a.m., and we were through
the first set of locks by noon. We motored through the impressive
Gaillard Cut, and by dinnertime we were moored safely in Lake
Gatun. After a toast of champagne, Francisco left us, promising
to return the next day to complete our transit.
The next day we all went swimming in the freshwater lake and
cleaned the bottom of the boat. Francisco arrived early and pointed
to a freighter up-anchoring and preparing to enter the locks.
"We go with him. Hurry everyone out of the water!" In
five minutes we were all aboard and free from the mooring, heading
for the last chambers leading to the Caribbean. The down-locking
went smoothly, and by 3 p.m. we were snugly side-tied at the
Panama Canal Yacht Club, in search of a cold drink and a shower.
We'd done it!
Why use a ship's agent for the paperwork? The goal of all maritime
agents is to take all the stress out of the paperwork mill, and
to complete the process in a quick, professional manner. If you're
short of time or just hate dealing with bureaucracy - in a foreign
language, no less - you may want an agent. One cruiser was
charged the regular $600 for transit fees, and the $850 deposit
fees, but when he admitted to the Admeasurer that he couldn't
maintain the newly-required eight knots, he was charged an additional
$450 for a two-day transit. Plus $50 for a mooring in Lake Gatun.
Plus $200 in extra pilot boat fees! None of the other boats were
charged that, even when they did a two-day transit. A simple
phone call had Enrique Plummer down at the ACP (Panama Canal
Authority) offices explaining the situation. Those charges were
The agent also acts as your representative in case you have an
accident or delay in the Canal that needs attention. A breakdown
in the Canal can lead to a $400/hour tow from a tug, not to speak
of the money it would cost if you held up a Canal lock for even
one minute. When our engine on Chewbacca conked out
just as we were getting ready to pull out of a lock, we had to
hand the ropes back to the tug that we were side tied to while
I bent down and turned the ignition key. For 10 seconds
of handing the ropes back, the tug wanted to charge us $300! Although
we had no agent to represent us, luckily for us we had fed our
Advisor pretty well, and he disputed the charges in a heated
flurry of Spanish. We motored into the next lock without incident. The
pilot or advisor determines if your transit is free of delays
or damage to the Canal and authorizes release of your deposit
at the completion of your transit.
An agent is essentially responsible for your boat during the
transit, and a good agent keeps track of your progress through
the Canal. When I asked Enrique Plummer how I could notify him
when we were through the Canal so I could arrange to get his
lines back to him, he said that he would know where I was at
any time in transit, and he would probably know before I knew
at what time I would be scheduled to be exiting the last locks
heading for Colon. Canal rules, regulations, and fees always
seem to be changing, and the agents keep up on those changing
phone numbers, moving offices, and banks. They know the
office personnel and how to avoid those overtime charges - even
on the weekends. If you need professional line-handlers
($65 per day), agents have their favorites. And they rent lines
- $80 for the set - and tires to use for fenders.
Do you really get what you pay for with an agent? Two cruising
boats we met up with at the Flamenco Marina complained bitterly
about using a "high-priced agent" and not receiving
all their paperwork - including their exit zarpes. Their
agent basically got them through the Canal and then dropped the
ball. Although they both felt they would never transit the Canal
without using an agent, they both wished they would have used
the "not-so-expensive guy" and gotten much more service.
We were content to run the paperwork on our own - assisted by
Taxi Tony' and tutored by Enrique Plummer - because we had the
time, a shoestring budget, and the masochistic desire to experience
all the steps. Because the only constant in Central America
is change, we would suggest that anyone contemplating using an
agent, or doing the paperwork on their own, talk with some cruisers
preparing to go through the Canal and find out how they fared.
Chewbacca is currently heading for the historic harbor
of Portobello, and from there will head to the San Blas Islands
for the summer months.
- the winship family
Readers - Latitude
boats have been through the Canal four times. The first was Big
O about 10 years ago, and we did the paperwork ourselves with
our Spanish-speaking Basque captain. It took a little time but
it was easy. When we went back the other way two years later,
we used Tina McBride. She was expensive, but did a great job.
Profligate went through the Canal for the first time in
December of last year. We used Pete Stevens, who was equally
expensive but did an equally fine job.
When Profligate came through the Canal a second time in
May of last year, we used a taxi driver named Ellington to help
us with the paperwork. We had some special issues, and Ellington
went the extra mile for us, twice taking us into the nerve center
of the Canal operations to speak on our behalf. As far as we're
concerned, he and his fellow taxi driver 'Dracula' did a bang
up job for our group of 11. Not only that, we really liked the
guy and he made the process fun. We'd use him again in a second
- especically because we can think of lots of ways to spend the
$450 we'd save over the more expensive agents.
We didn't meet Enrique Plummer until we had transited, but we
were impressed. His business plan is to do as good or better
a job as the others, but at only 40% of the price. You have to
like that attitude. Plummer claims he get can get cruisers help
with engines, sails, electronics - pretty much everything - at
the kind of speed Americans expect. From what we've heard, he's
been living up to his promises.
Harmony - Islander Freeport 40
The Mayor of Tenacatita
Since January there have been between 30 and 50 boats here in
five-mile by five-mile Tenacatita Bay, which is about 130 miles
south of Puerto Vallarta and 21 miles north of Barra de Navidad
on Mexico's Gold Coast. This is one of the first warm anchorages
after passages from the north, and has become a place where people
stop to collect themselves and make future cruising plans. Because
the primary anchorage behind Punta Chubasco is around a sharp
corner from the Pacific swells, the water on the bay tends to
be smooth. Not having to worry about their boats, people get
comfortable playing volleyball, being part of the swim team,
socializing, and commuting to the village of La Manzanilla across
the bay or down to Barra de Navidad. The water is warm enough
for swimming, and the air temperature is usually in the 80s.
Something like 10 to 15 years ago - we can't seem to come up
with an exact date - the folks on Black Swan began the
saga of the 'Mayor of Tenacatita Bay'. When they left, Don of
the Truckee-based Islander 36 Windward Luv - with his
wife Lena as the Mujere Primera - assumed the mayoral duties
for about seven years. When Don decided to stay in Mazatlan three
years ago, the search was begun for a new mayor. Even though
I tried to interest other people on several occasions, it soon
became apparent that I had been chosen. This has been my third
year as mayor, and a politician could only dream of a constituency
such as mine - people living their dreams and enjoying life to
the fullest in one of the most enjoyable anchorages in Mexico.
To the east of the anchorage is a rocky bluff. To the north is
a long, white, unspoiled sandy beach - except for a palapa at
the McHale's Navy site at the entrance to the 'jungle ride' through
the mangroves, and the Blue Bay Hotel at the far corner.
Friday is the Mayor's Night Out, and it seems that more boats
congregate in the anchorage on that day. We have a big dinghy
raft-up in the calmest water. Despite all the dinghies, one 10-lb
anchor seems to hold everyone. Everyone brings hor d'oeuvres,
and books and videos are traded. As the mayor, I have each member
introduce themselves, tell about their old life, their future
plans, and any funny stories they might have. It's often quite
Last week we asked the women of the fleet what changes they'd
gone through or have had to continue to go through for the cruising
lifestyle. These extraordinary women spoke from their hearts,
which made it both very interesting and entertaining. Since the
next weekend is going to be Virginia's and my 34th wedding anniversary,
we're going to ask each couple how they met and fell in love.
If it's anything like last year, it promises to be a real love
As for my port barrel projects, they included the appointment
of David on Tumbleweed as Commissioner of Vegetables.
He arranged a weekly delivery of produce and supplies to Tenacatita
Beach by Maria from Barra de Navidad. Deliveries were also arranged
with the French baker. Croissants anyone? Oh, the mayor's work
is never done.
Next year the dharma will have to be passed along, however, because
Virginia and I are planning on cruising Central America after
spending the spring in the Sea of Cortez.
- mayor gelser 02/05/05
We want to thank Paul and Debi Shaiman of the Whitby 42 Serenity
- who wrote the first Changes this month - for their report
on the new 'one-stop' clearing window at Ensenada. But we have
to disagree with their conclusion that all cruisers should support
the new system. The problem is that it's not a major improvement,
but rather a minor change to the same old clearing rubbish. Last
fall President Fox promised - in writing - that by this year
cruisers would only have to check into Mexico and out of Mexico.
There wouldn't be any more 'domestic' clearing. That promise
has not been kept, and we're not very happy about it because
the domestic clearing is a big bunch of baloney. Cruising boats
in Mexico are not like commercial ships, they're like RVs. And
folks with RVs don't have to jump through hoops while forking
over piles of money each time they arrive at a new town. The
rules for foreign boats in Mexico ought to be like the rules
for foreign boats in the United States - you pay a small annual
fee and that's basically the end of it.
The result of the continuing nonsense - and the fact that port
captains in places such as Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan are making
cruisers use a ship's agent, at least one of whom has been charging
outrageous fees for his anybody-could-do-it services - is that
more cruisers than ever will do all they can to avoid the waste
of time and money. The legal way to avoid it is check into Mexico
once, clear to the most distant port, then hang out where there
aren't any port captains. Another option - one that we don't
recommend but one that is growing in popularity - is to check
into Mexico to get some papers, then just not check in anymore
after that. Cruisers who do this could be in big trouble if they
get caught, but in most places the chances of getting caught
Tere Grossman of San Carlos Marina, who is also the President
of the Mexican Marina Owners' Association, also noted the establishment
of the 'one window' in Ensenada. As for the possibility of the
eliminating domestic clearing, she says that legislation is stuck
in Congress. "There's other bad news," she writes.
"On January 1, the government started charging $50 for the
Temporary Import Permits that used to be free."
Grossman had been under the impression that no port captain on
the Pacific Coast of Mexico was requiring cruisers to use ship's
agents. We informed her that she was mistaken, because the port
captains in Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta have been doing just
that. (Curiously, a ship's agent is not required at Nuevo Vallarta
or La Cruz, both of which are less than 10 miles from Puerto
Vallarta. Nor do people have to use an agent in San Blas, where
one had been required for years. "We kicked that guy out,"
the port captain reportedly told one group of cruisers.)
Grossman happened to be in Mexico City when she got our message
about the required use of agents in Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta,
and promised to take the matter up with the Director of Port
Captains the following day. We'll have a report in 'Lectronic
Latitude when we hear back from her.
Earlier we mentioned that some ship's agents were charging outrageous
sums for the simple task of clearing a boat in and out. Larry
and Tammy Seminutin of the Vernon, Canada-based Corbin 39 Semicrazed
have a good example. They stopped at Marina Mazatlan for two
nights, where they were told that the port captain required they
use a ship's agent. The couple say that the agent's fees alone
came to $35 U.S. for checking in, and $40 for checking out the
next day! The couple thought the marina's slip fees were reasonable,
but were so steamed about having to use the expensive agent that
they've changed their plan to leave their boat at Marina Mazatlan
for the summer.
"After cruising down with the Ha-Ha, we've been having a
great time," write Rob and Linda Jones of the Whidby Island,
Washington-based Gemini 3000 cat Cat'n About. "But
we're still wondering about a possible change in clearing procedures.
We've been in Tenacatita Bay - which doesn't have a port captain
- for two weeks. But this morning it was announced over the net
that the port captain in Barra de Navidad - 21 miles away - now
wants boats in Tenacatita Bay to check in at Barra! More money
spent on officialdom means less money being spent on fish tacos
and cervezas. However, the alternative is being cold in Washington,
so we'll just deal with it."
A second alternative is to pretend that you don't listen to the
net. Requiring captains to make a 40-mile round trip to check-in
is, we think, tourist abuse.
We grouse about the clearing procedures in Mexico because they
are an expensive waste of time that restricts the ability of
tourists to move freely. Nonetheless, Mexico remains a terrific
place to cruise, the people are wonderful, and the dollar still
goes a long way - except with some ship's agents.
Last month we reported that a man from Colorado was killed in
some kind of small boat accident one night in Cabo San Lucas
Bay. We haven't learned any more about that incident, but we
did hear about another tourist getting killed on the water. Ha-Ha
vets Len and Norma Brownlow of the Channel Islands-based Olson
40 Hangover report that a land-based tourist was run over
and killed by a small outboard-powered Mexican boat in Zihuatanejo
in January. "The guy was swimming out to an anchored boat
and they ran right over him," says Len. "Although their
outboard kicked up and the victim came up screaming, they kept
right on going! Finally there were so many people yelling at
them that they turned back. It took a long time to get the victim
to shore and in an ambulance, and he died before reaching the
As if that weren't enough, Jack Carson and Monica Guildersleeve
of the British Columbia-based custom 44 Bella Via - much
more on them next month - told us that two couples taking their
dinghy to shore at La Cruz on Banderas Bay were overtaken by
a panga that drove right into the back of their dinghy! The two
men in the back of the dinghy jumped overboard to avoid being
hit. The two women in front weren't hurt only because the panga
came to a stop just short of them. The incident happened at night
- despite the fact that the folks in the dinghy were waving a
light. The gist of this story was confirmed by Philo in La Cruz.
Nobody was able to remember any individual or boat names.
Needless to say, it's important to dinghy and swim defensively
at all times in Mexico, where safety standards are rarely observed.
At night, show a very bright flashlight. But even that might
not be enough. Too many Mexicans drive cars and operate dinghies
Speaking of Philo, for the last four summers he's been cruising
his Cal 36 Cherokee Spirit across the Pacific. He characterized
it as the "last great adventure for the average person"
- but noted that the sailing conditions were a little rougher
than he, his crew, and his autopilot had expected. Once he got
to New Caledonia and learned how much trouble it was going to
be to bring a boat into Australia - proof of insurance, proof
of medical insurance, having the boat fumigated - he put the
boat on the block in Noumea. Much to his surprise, she and several
other boats sold almost immediately. His for more than the asking
price to a French couple who were going to have to pay 38% import
duty. With the euro so strong, we suppose that the French - at
least the ones who have jobs - can now do stuff like that. For
the immediate future, Hayward is going to concentrate on his
business and wonderful community projects in La Cruz. Someday
down the road, he might get a little bigger boat.
We hope you read the article earlier in this issue about the
terrific Zihua SailFest charity created and run by cruisers.
While Zihua SailFest may suddenly have grown to be the biggest
cruiser charity in Mexico, it's certainly not the only one. Here's
a partial list of some others, some of which are regular events,
some of which are held from time to time:
November, Turtle Bay - Last year's Ha-Ha fleet raised $1,500
for the clinic in Turtle Bay after the doctor there helped save
the life of participant Phil Hendrix.
December, La Paz - Subasta, put on by the Club Cruceros, is one
of the oldest and largest cruiser charities in Mexico. There
is also the Fundacion Para Los Niños de La Paz.
December, Paradise Marina, Nuevo Vallarta - The Vallarta YC sponsors
a Chili Cook-Off each year, and last year raised $3,500. The
Vallarta YC also co-sponsors a Santa's Toy Box, which last year
made sure that some 800 children got at least one toy.
March, Punta Mita, Banderas Bay - The Pirates For Pupils Spinnaker
Cup, a fun sail from Punta Mita to Paradise Marina, is being
revived this year. The money goes to various educational causes
around Banderas Bay. (Ha-Ha Honcho Lauren Spindler has decided
to donate $500 in the name of Ha-Ha participants to this charity
each year. She had already done the same thing with the Zihua
May, Puerto Escondido - Hidden Harbor YC has hosted the Loreto
Fest for many years and used the considerable proceeds to fund
numerous charitable causes in the nearby communities. We're certain
there are other cruiser charity events in Mexico that we're either
not aware of or have forgotten. We should also mention that Philo's
in La Cruz has several terrific ongoing programs to benefit various
segments of the resident and cruiser communities in La Cruz.
"I was recently in Beirut, Lebanon," writes Kelvin
Meeks of the Seattle-based Islander 32 Renaissance, "Across
the street from the InterContinental Phoenicia Hotel was a small
but well-protected harbor that is home to the St. Georges YC.
The weather was rainy and pleasant - no problem for a Seattle
resident such as myself - and although my business schedule didn't
allow me the luxury of getting out on the water for a sail, seeing
the beauty of the Med planted a seed of desire for me to sail
on it someday. From such small beginnings are adventures born,
Right - but we'd think twice about a sailing adventure that took
us to Beirut. The once-beautiful waterfront city went to hell
- and still looks like hell - thanks to the 15-year civil war
that claimed 150,000 lives before it ended in 1991. Since then,
however, it's been just one political assassination after the
next - many of them believed to be the doing of Syria. However,
after last week's assasination of billionaire and former Prime
Minister Rafiq Hariri, hundreds of thousands of people took to
the streets in a fury. Now that there has been some resemblence
of democratic elections in Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq,
many Lebanese are demanding the same thing. We're not going to
hold our breath. Nor are we planning any cruises to Lebanon in
the near future.
It's hard to decide who has done a worse job: the State of Hawaii
with the Ala Wai Not Harbor in Honolulu, or the various entities
that have been trying to put something together at Puerto Escondido
in the Sea of Cortez. We've been visiting the Ala Wai since 1978,
and from the looks of things, nobody has done a lick of maintenance
since. It's pathetic. A few months ago, it was announced that
they wouldn't even be able to host this year's TransPac fleet
on TransPac Row. The latest news is that even more slips will
have to be taken out of commission. If the State of Hawaii was
an individual or corporation, they'd probably be sued for being
Things haven't been that different down in Puerto Escondido,
which was a popular cruiser haven even back in 1977 when we first
visited. Back then we attended a meeting hosted by Fonatur, the
Mexican tourism development agency, in which all kinds of grand
plans were unveiled for the natural harbor. A French company
invested many millions, a little bit of work was done, and then
all the money disappeared. A few years later somebody put in
a number of substandard docks, a few of which lasted a season
or two. All through these problems cruisers continued to anchor
happily in Puerto Escondido, many of them for years at a time.
That all changed in October, when Singlar - which is no relation
to the U.S. phone company - acquired the anchoring and mooring
rights to the classic hurricane hole. They brought in fuel tanks,
installed a large mooring field - and announced they would charge
startlingly high fees.
Long time sailor Tim Schaaf of the Hunter 33 Casual Water and
the Moorings 4500 cat Jet Stream inspected the moorings
before they were installed. In an exclusive report to Latitude,
he noted that some parts of the mooring system seemed fine, but
others seemed inadequate. And as we all know, a mooring system
is only as strong as its weakest link.
Several folks who passed through Puerto Escondido on their way
south from San Carlos tell us that the once-crowded Inner Harbor
at Puerto Escondido was only home to three or four boats. There
were about 30 boats - far more than usual - in the Waiting Room
a short distance away. These folks were only having to pay the
local port authority about $1/day - which is reasonable. As for
the Singlar's moorings, Schaaf's doubts about their adequacy
proved well-founded. We're told that at least three of the moorings
have failed and that the cruising community no longer trusts
them. Anyone using a mooring ball must sign a release absolving
Singlar of any liability.
The lack of boats in Puerto Escondido has hurt businesses in
Puerto Escodido and the nearby town of Loreto. Some - such as
Driftwood Internet - have gone out of business altogether. Cruisers
are very unhappy with Singlar, and so are the local businesses.
A once-thriving cruising community has all but been destroyed.
The big event of the year in Puerto Escondido has always been
Loreto Fest, which has traditionally raised lots of money for
local charities. With most of the boats having left for greener
pastures, and many others having written Puerto Escondido off
their intineraries, nobody is sure what to expect for this year's
Fest on April 28 through May 1. Folks from the sponsoring Hidden
Port YC have worked out a special Loreto Fest deal with Singlar.
No matter what size the boat, the cost for anchoring or taking
a mooring for seven days will be $55 - which is still $49 more
than anchoring in the Waiting Room, and $55 more than anchoring
most everywhere else in Mexico.
More recently, we've been told that Singlar has reduced their
regular monthly rate down to $168 a month for a 40-ft boat. To
understand what's been wrong with the Ala Wai, and what's now
wrong with Puerto Escondido, you only have to realize that Singlar
wants to charge more for a 40-ft boat to anchor in the middle
of nowhere than the Ala Wai charges for a 40-ft slip in a marina
with a waiting list a mile long.
In Puerto Escondido, everybody refers to each other by their
first name and their boat name. We've cruised enough to understand
that nobody ever knows anybody's last name, but as publishers
it drives us nuts. Nonetheless, this report from Connie Sunlover
was too compelling to ignore.
"Elvin Sunlover agreed to help Doug Backstreet take his
new boat 50 miles up the Sea to her new home at Concepcion Bay.
Doug had been told the boat was full of diesel, but it wasn't.
They brought an extra five gallons of fuel along, but that was
only good enough to get them close to Concepcion Bay. So they
set the main and jib. There was only two knots of wind, and the
sea was relatively calm, but two halyards broke, so they had
to pull the pins and cut the other two halyards. [We're not sure
what she means by this - editor.] After cutting the sail, they
were able to save the boom, but the mast fell into the sea. Beam
to the small seas, with everything hanging over the side, the
motion began to rip the bowsprit and the railing. By now it was
a matter of saving the boat and keeping the two crew from getting
hurt. Without any fuel and without being able to set any sail,
Elvin and Doug just bobbed around. They had a radio, but the
antenna was on the top of the mast, which was in the sea. This
went on for two days before they set off flares that were seen
by a navy helicopter. A navy ship came to their aid. After making
sure the boat was seaworthy, they gave them enough diesel to
make it to Concepcion Bay. In any event, for three days I had
no idea where they were. Needless to say, I didn't leave the
palapa or the radio during that time."
"It's hard to believe, but this will be our 16th year of
offshore sail training," write John Neal and Amanda-Swan
Neal of the Hallberg-Rassy 46 Mahina Tiare. "We think
last season was our best ever, as in 14,000 miles we only put
100 hours on the engine - the least of any season to date. Mahina
Tiare is now on the hard in New Zealand, and we fly back
in mid-April to replace the rigging - which now has 85,000 ocean
miles. Then we'll get the boat ready for another bout of the
Roaring Forties, followed by a blast up to Rurutu in the Australs.
Later on in the season we'll sail up to Alaska and then back
down to Victoria. It will only be the second time we've had our
baby home in eight years!"
Another milestone for John is that this will be his 23rd year
of weekend Offshore Cruising Seminars. Over the years, he's given
119 of them, having taught - with various experts, such as Amanda
- 7,800 students. Realizing that they perhaps still don't know
everything despite their combined 412,000 ocean miles, their
seminars will also feature Nigel Calder, noted author of Boatowner's
Mechanical and Electrical Manual and other books, and Lee
Chesneau, Senior Marine Meteorologist of the Marina Prediction
Center in Washington, D.C. For information on the seminar in
Seattle on March 12 & 13, and in San Francisco on March 19
& 20, visit www.mahina.com
or call 800-875-0852.
"On February 7, several Baja Ha-Ha vets - from different
years - and other cruisers docked and anchored at Barra de Navidad
to share food and stories," reports Marlene Verdery, who
is co-captain of the Sausalito-based Pearson 362 Jellybean
with her husband Roy. "The highlight of the event was a
concert performed by some members of the Picard family on the
Monterey-based Kelley Peterson 46 Kanaloa, who have been
cruising Mexico's Gold Coast following last fall's Ha-Ha. Doug
and Kumi Picard performed several songs, including some composed
by Kumi. Daughter Michele, 8, entertained the crowd with Japanese
dancing routines to mom and dad's music. Toward the end of the
concert, Marc, 6, pleased the crowd by replacing his mother at
the piano. His beautiful playing overwhelmed the crowd - and
even brought some to tears.
Calling Dave, Amy, Jessica, and Cody Sherman of Northern California,
who circumnavigated aboard Rubaiyat in the '90s. Matt
Knight and Suzanne Hobbs of Noel, who you cruised the
South Pacific and Indian Oceans with, would like to get in touch.
You knew them when they had youngsters Harriet and Jemima, although
they now have two more children. The family now lives on South
Week Farm, Chumleigh, Devon, United Kingdom, but Matt and Suzanne
have developed "an urge to return to the tradewinds and
tropical reefs before the little ones fly the nest". So
they are looking for a new cruising boat and think that old cruising
buddies such as yourselves might be able to help them find the
right boat. They can be reached by .
Looking at this month's Classy Classifieds, we notice
that Richard Booker and Grace Spencer of Winnepeg, Canada, who
built the Mystery Cove 38 catamaran Crocodile Rock, and
who did the 2000 Ha-Ha, have put their boat up for sale. They
sailed that little cat a long way, including down to Panama,
up to the East Coast, and then made a 17-day passage to the Eastern
Caribbean. They were nice enough to put us up for a night in
English Harbor, Antigua, while waiting for Profligate
to arrive, and have subsequently sailed back to Panama. In other
words, that little cat has a lot of successful ocean miles. Why
are they selling? "We're planning to stay in Panama and
build up our sails and rigging business. If things work out,
we'll build another boat designed specifically for the tropics."
We know this is late, but it's important. According to Jerry
and Joni Reid of the Newport, Oregon-based Lotus, last
Christmas Day in Mag Bay, 13 cruising boats from three countries
celebrated Christmas with a potluck dinner. After dinner and
between songs played by cruising musicians, a special award was
formally presented to Bob and Dianna Denny of the Port Townsend-based
cutter White Swan "for their actions on Christmas
Eve when near-gale force winds caused two boats to drag anchor."
"Here's the latest take on San Diego from me, which has
changed quite a bit from my last visit in 2000," write Terry
Bingham and Tammy Woodmansee of the Eagle Harbor, Washington-based
Union 36 Secret O' Life. "There are new Police Docks,
of course, with showers! But they've really cut back on the available
anchorage for cruisers. When I arrived I stopped at the Police
Dock to pump-out and to get a permit for the A-9 anchorage, something
I never had a problem with in the past because that anchorage
is reserved for boats from outside of the county. But the unfriendly
young lady ensconced behind the bulletproof glass in the Harbor
Office simply told me there were no permits available. She said
they had reduced the size of the anchorage to less than 20 boats.
She had no idea when a permit would be available, but said to
check back "because you never know".
"With the San Diego weather turning sour once again,"
Terry and Tammy continue, "I asked again about a slip at
the docks. After ascertaining that our boat was in fact present
on the pump-out dock, she assigned us a vacant slip where we
spent the next eight days at $10/day for the first five days
and $20 after that. There is a 10-day limit in any 40-day period.
We were happy for the slip, as the wind blew 30-35 knots from
the south, and the area received another five inches of rain.
When the weather turned 'normal' again, we asked for and received
a permit to anchor in La Playa for the weekend and - actually
got an extra day due to the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday.
"As for the other anchorages in the San Diego area, Glorietta
Bay, Mission Bay and La Playa are still designated as 72-hour
anchorages," the couple continue, "but current Harbor
Police policy will only allow three of these 72-hour permits
to be issued in any 30-day period. This makes obsolete the previous
option of hopping from anchorage to anchorage, with a few odd
days thrown in at the docks or A-9. Now it seems like the only
full-time anchorage is A-8, which is way down near Chula Vista
- where I would not feel safe leaving my boat unattended. The
marinas are packed, of course, so even expensive transient slips
are hard to find."
Even with some 500 boats in storage at Marina Seca, the lack
of slips in California is getting to be a worse problem all the
time. 'Use it or lose it' is, we think, the best solution.
Lucky enough to be out cruising? Then don't forget to write,
making sure to include a few high res photos.