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March 2014

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With reports this month from Ichi Ban in Samoa; Hotel California, Too, racing and cruising in the Caribbean; part two of our interview with the crew of Privateer, who just did a two-year Pacific cruise; from Lilo, Four Choices, Crazy Love and TARDIS in Chacala; from Legacy at Tenacatita Bay; and Cruise Notes.

Ichi Ban — Columbia 34 Mk II
Justin Jenkins and Anna Wiley
Cruising on an Ultra Budget
(San Diego)

It's January 21 as I write this, and Anna and I are currently in American Samoa, where we've been for the past three months. I made a mooring out of a concrete piling, wrapping a half-inch chain around it. We floated the mooring out to the anchorage using 55-gallon drums and ratcheting straps. How is that for marine engineering?! The mooring has been holding Ichi Ban in the otherwise poor holding ground of Pago Pago ever since.

I got a job working for a local Samoan teaching swimming. After a month I decided it wasn't really a job because he didn't pay me. That was awhile ago and I still haven't been paid! It turns out that Samoa has a bad reputation for people doing all they can do to get their sticky fingers on American handouts, but then not paying Americans for work they do here.

Anna and I also rebuilt two 45-ft outrigger canoes that were destroyed in the tsunami that hit here in 2009. I had to fiberglass the completely severed bow back on, then fair and paint them with Anna's help. I also did a tile and drywall job.

But the real money has been coming from all the other cruisers in the harbor. Anna has been oiling teak and I have been cleaning boat bottoms to make ends meet. Everyone has been very kind and helpful to us. For example, Mike and Julie of Slowride gave us a wind generator, so I got that hooked up and we've got more power than before. I can't tell you how thankful Anna and I are for the wonderful help of all the other cruisers. We truly belong to one big family.

I could make some good, steady money if I could get hired by the couple of big contractors who are putting in the fiber optics for the island and replacing the water lines. But I haven't got on with them yet.

There are a lot of great hikes here in American Samoa, with beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes. But the surf is just okay because it's hard to get to and the waves break in shallow water. Food is very cheap here. Anna and I can get a big plate of Chinese food for $3.50 — and it feeds both of us. While some things are hard to find, American Samoa is, overall, a good place to stock up on provisions for heading farther west.

The periphery of cyclone Ian made things pretty exciting. The wind funnels through Pago Pago harbor, so it's windier inside the harbor than out. We had gusts to 50 knots through the anchorage. It's well known that the bottom of the harbor is very fouled with trash and debris, so two boats went onto the reef. After we got the first one off, we celebrated with onboard cocktails. The cocktails were a delicious concoction of 1 part rum, 2 parts Kahlua, and 3 parts ginger beer. About halfway through my cocktail, I looked inside my cup — and saw two cockroaches chillin' in there with my ice cubes! It turned out that everyone had cockroaches in their drinks. I guess that's the Samoan Special!

While Anna and I've had fun here, we can't wait to get out. For one thing, it's pretty Americanized. Secondly, Samoans are super-religious. We tried going to church the other day out of respect, but we just couldn't hang. For a God-fearing people, Samoans get into lots of fights and throw trash everywhere. I've never seen so much trash in a harbor. So far French Polynesia has been the true South Pacific experience for us.

We plan to head to Fiji in April, or maybe sooner. I can't wait for a change of pace and scenery, and for better surf. By the way, the Latitude articles about us in the South Pacific have been great. The one featuring my mom was super funny!

— justin 01/21/2014

Hotel California, Too — SC 70
Steve Schmidt
Doing Everything Differently
(Ex-Silicon Valley / The Caribbean)

Much of what Steve Schmidt does flies in the face of conventional sailing wisdom. Coming up on 20 years, the former Silicon Valley computer company executive has been cruising the Caribbean, usually singlehanded. Yet he's been doing it with a 70-ft boat, generally considered to be far too big for cruising without a crew.

Secondly, his boat has all of 25 feet of anchor chain, about one-tenth of what would be considered prudent. And the anchors are none too big. Furthermore, HCT doesn't have a windlass. Yet Schmidt frequently sets and raises anchors by himself. He does, however, get a bit of an assist from an electric winch.

If anchoring a 70-ft boat by oneself seems pretty tricky, consider the fact that for a two-year span, during which Schmidt actively cruised and raced, his boat didn't have a transmission and, thus, no diesel propulsion. So he had to set and raise anchor under sail, often in crowded anchorages.

You know how you're supposed to run modern sailboat diesels at high revs and, if you take care of them, Yanmar claims they could last for as much as 10,000 hours? Schmidt has used this original, 17-year old, turbo-charged Yanmar 76 hp diesel almost exclusively for charging the HCT's batteries at relatively low rpms. "I've only used the engine for propulsion about 4% of the time," he says. And it's not as if he's taken the best care of it. "Ten years ago I stopped cleaning the breather and turbo. Eventually it got so clogged that the engine couldn't combust the fuel and we had to clean it out." Despite both kinds of diesel abuse, the Yanmar now has 17,000 hours, and continues to run fine!

Most cruising boats lift their dinghies out of the water with davits. Schmidt has a special flopping 'ramp' on the transom of his specially designed short rig SC 70 that allows him to drag his 12-ft dinghy onto the boat's huge 'back porch'.

There are several common ways to heat water for showers on a boat. There are electric and propane water heaters, heat-exchangers from the engine, and even plastic Sun Showers. HCT's hot water heating system is even more basic than a Sun Shower. Schmidt runs a regular garden hose filled with water around the deck. "If you use the water in it before 4 p.m. in the tropics, the water is so hot it will burn you," he says. "If you wait until after 10 p.m, it will be cold." Unlike most water heaters, a hose needs little maintenance.

Since Schmidt has mostly singlehanded his 70-footer for decades, you'd think HCT would have a slick and sophisticated deck layout. With all due respect to Schmidt, it's pretty complicated, and not all controls are easy for a man at the helm to reach. Furthermore, the rig has running backstays and the mainsheet winch is manual.

The amazing thing is that none of it seems to bother Schmidt, who, if we remember correctly, says he races about 70 races a year, many of them solo. It's a little bit funny, because when he came to the Caribbean, he really hadn't done much racing, let alone singlehanded racing. He did it in order to meet people.

When Schmidt got to the Caribbean, he wasn't much interested in diving, either. But the more he did it, the more he became fascinated by it. He now spends about an hour a day in the water. He doesn't dive for fish north of Guadaloupe because of fears of ciguatera. But he has dived on most of the points and reefs on the race courses he sails.

No matter what age Schmidt is, he'd be considered buff. That's what singlehanding a 70-footer in lots of windy races, plus maintaining a big boat, plus an hour a day of open-water diving will do. Schmidt admits to being 39. Just between us, we suspect he's close to being able to get the maximum amount of Social Security benefits.

When Schmidt returns to Santa Barbara in late summer, he doesn't put his boat on the hard in Trinidad as do most cruisers. "Trinidad gets so much rain that the inside of the boat becomes covered in mold, he says. "I hated that. So I take my boat to Curaçao, which like the other ABC Islands is desert-like, with cactuses all about." The downside is it means he starts each cruising season 500 miles downwind of his winter cruising ground. But with a SC 70, he can cover that ground pretty quickly.

On February 14, Schmidt won the West End [of Tortola] YC's singlehanded race. The next day he, with a crew of four others including the Wanderer and Doña de Mallora, did the West End YC's crewed regatta. Sailing with a self-tacking jib and without a spinnaker, Schmidt and crew, average age 65, corrected out second in class and fourth in fleet. A bigger jib or another five knots of wind would have made a big difference. But it was a fun time on a race designed for everyone to have fun.

When Schmidt launched HCT, legendary builder/designer Bill Lee gave him two Santa Cruz 70 sailing tips: 1) Never sail under 10 knots, and 2) Never sail dead downwind. Not surprisingly, Schmidt doesn't even abide by the sailing guidelines of the guru of ultralights: "In over 20 knots of wind, DDW wing-on-wing is pretty fast."

But post-race was pure Schmidt. The engine wouldn't start because the lift pump had burned out, so we had to sail to a fender holding up one of the two anchor lines and have a 65-year-old try to snatch the line with a boat hook. Using just the self-tacking jib, and dodging the other boats coming into Soper's Hole, Schmidt's first attempt at lagging up to the buoy was a little too fast. The second attempt, however, was perfect.

Breaking most of the rules. It's what's worked for Schmidt, and worked for him since he started cruising nearly 20 years ago.

— latitude/rs 02/19/2014

Privateer — Hans Christian 33
Chris John and Lila Shaked
The Young and Restless
(Redlands and Tucson, AZ)

[This is part two of our interview with Chris, 29, and Lila, 32, who had just finished a 2.5-year, 16,000-mile cruise from California to New Zealand and back to Hawaii.]

38: Like most young cruisers, you two are budget cruisers. Where was the easiest place to cruise inexpensively?

Chris: Maui — as long as you're willing to bob and weave. We lived on the hook at Maui in the winter when the Kona winds blow. Well, forget about that, as even 12 knots of wind results in five-foot waves coming through the roadstead. There just isn't anywhere to hide. Cruising isn't easy in Hawaii, which is why a lot of people don't cruise there. But it's also why we like it.

Lila: But the absolute least expensive place was Fanning Island, because there wasn't anywhere to spend money. You have to bring everything — except for lobster, which they have in excess. If you bring clothes, you can trade for all the lobster you want.

Chris: The locals will take you when they go for lobster. It takes about five minutes to get a dozen.

Lila: We also got lots of squash, coconuts and fish in return for old clothes.

Chris: They can't grow in-the-ground crops like taro, but they can grow things, like squash, which grow above ground. We ate squash for about a month. [Laughter.] Fanning was the most welcoming place we visited, too. If you bring a spear gun, you can get all the seafood you want — but you have to be concerned about ciguatera.

38: What is the deal with that?

Chris: It varies from area to area. Whenever we got the anchor down, I'd go ashore and ask about ciguatera at the nearest fale. Depending on where we were, we'd be told that no fish bigger than a hand was safe, in other places it was no bigger than a forearm, and in yet others shoulder to wrist was fine. It's weird that it can be so different.

Lila: Tonga has no ciguatera, so we could eat everything we caught.

Chris: We ate huge sea bass and jacks, both of which usually have ciguatera in other locations. Being ciguatera-free is one of the reasons Tonga is paradise.

Lila: That's right, 25 knots of wind, no swell, and 170 islands in just the northern group.

Chris: Plus food is cheap, the exchange rate is good, and they've got pigs for roasting.

38: Last time we were there, the locals were dining on canned spaghetti.

Chris: They are big on corned beef hash and stuff like that. They'd rather eat canned food than lobster.

Lila: And boiled bananas. If somebody invites you to their home, you're likely to be served crackers, corned beef and boiled green bananas. To be polite, you have to say, "Oh yummy."

Chris: Tonga was pretty inexpensive because we'd brought all the staples with us from American Samoa, and would only go to Neiafu (Tonga) every couple of weeks for fresh stuff.

38: We're you able to get plenty of fresh greens?

Chris: Not always. Sometimes we had to make our own food, such as yogurt and cheese.

Lila: I bought yogurt starter from a girl in Niue, and then kept making it myself. You take two spoonfuls of old yogurt, add powered milk and water, and let it sit inside a thermos surrounded by hot water. That activates the culture. In 12 hours the milk and water become yogurt.

Chris: You'd be surprised, but it's the best tasting yogurt in the world.

Lila: But you always save two spoonfuls for the next batch. You can also make yogurt cheese and stuff. We don't have an oven, so we also learned to use the pressure cooker for baking.

38: How long did it take you to make beer?

Chris: A week to ferment, depending on what country we were in because the ambient temperature makes a difference. Two weeks later I'd siphon it into bottles, put it in cold water, add a couple of teaspoons of sugar — not too much or it would explode — then cap it. Then we'd pour it into frosty mugs and nobody could tell the difference. It cost just a couple of cents a serving. We gave a lot of it away, too.

38: What percentage of cruisers did you see who were under 30?

Chris: I'd say 10% or less.

Lila: Not many, but young cruisers naturally gravitated to each other.

Chris: We'd always look for people rowing long distances, as it was either going to be someone who had been cruising for 40 years or young cruisers who couldn't afford an outboard and gas. So when we saw somebody in a rowboat, we knew we'd be instant friends.

38: What do you have?

Chris: An eight-foot hard dinghy and a two-person kayak.

38: What kinds of cruising boats do young cruisers have?

Chris: All kinds. One couple had a Westsail 32, and we recently met another couple that have a Columbia 34.

38: You must be speaking of our friend Justin Jenkins and his lady Anna Wiley of the San Diego-based Ichi Ban.

Chris: Yes! Those two are awesome!

Lila: Get outta here! Those two are great. We were about to leave Bora Bora when we bumped into them. We immediately decided to stay for another week. We'd all play music and drink this local brew that Justin made with fruit.

Chris: We met them because of their rowing dinghy. I like Justin because he's such a hustler. He'd get on the radio and say he was available for bottom cleanings, mast climbing, whatever. He scored lots of jobs, too. A lot of cruisers who would normally clean their own bottoms had Justin do it because they like to support young cruisers.

38: The last we heard they were down to $150 in Bora Bora, so they took off for American Samoa in search of jobs. [Ed. note: See update from Justin and Anna in this month's first Changes and in Letters.]

Lila: We know they'd made it because other young cruising friends told us they saw them.

Chris: There are a lot of job opportunities for people under 30 who follow our route. It's easy to get a job in the hospitality industry in Hawaii. Then you get a job in American Samoa. Then in New Zealand. Then in America Samoa again. If you work for six months you can earn enough for six months of cruising — as long as you make your own beer and yogurt, and row your dinghy. It's the Under-30 Cruising Circuit

38: What did you think of your boat?

Chris: I love her. I'm not saying that we would never have a lighter boat or a cat, as it took us 23 days to sail from California to Hawaii. But for the sailing after that, there were many times we were happy to have a heavier boat. She's also big and roomy for 33 feet.

Lila: We also did three 25+ day passages with her.

Chris: It's funny how your thoughts about being on the open ocean change with experience. Our first offshore passage to Hawaii was a little scary. "We're 1,000 miles from anywhere," I'd think to myself. But having now sailed 15,000 miles, many of them much more difficult than those to Hawaii, I'd happily sail to Hawaii aboard an 18-footer with a little cabin. There's nothing like having the wind from aft.

Chris: Of our 15,000 miles, almost all were downwind — except the last 6,000 miles. You see a lot of U.S. boats for sale in New Zealand and Australia, as Americans don't want to bring their boats back. But in a few years we want to bring our boat to Mexico, as it's sweet and cheap, and my mom is here with Glenn Twitchell on the Lagoon 380 Beach Access.

Lila: After Hawaii and French Polynesia, Mexico is insanely cheap. We were running around a couple of big grocery stores here in Mexico and couldn't believe how inexpensive stuff was.

Chris: If we were cruising in Mexico, we wouldn't have to make our beer in a bucket. We could buy ready made.

38: What advice do you have for 25- to 30-year-old would-be cruisers?

Chris: The same advice I've always read other cruisers give in Latitude: Go with the boat you have. Spend the money on rigging, Dacron, and safety gear. For example, we had paper charts instead of a chart plotter. I updated all the paper charts with a pencil, and they served us well.

38: Thank you for your time and youthful insights.

— latitude/rs 02/01/2014

Cruisers In Chacala
Chacala Anchorage
Mainland Mexico

In early January the Wanderer stopped at Chacala, which is a cruiser favorite 25 miles northeast of Banderas Bay. The anchorage usually offers good protection from the prevailing northwest swell, although flopper-stoppers are sometimes needed. There's a little cove beneath the port captain's office where dinghies are usually left unlocked, and then a lovely trail to a 200-yard-distant sandy beach with palapas that is a favorite with Mexicans on holiday. Except for holiday weeks and weekends, Chacala is pleasantly tranquil.

The beachfront 'wine bar' we stopped at for lunch turned out to be — thanks to high-speed Internet — the hangout for cruisers from the 15 or so boats that were anchored out front. Before long, we fell into conversation with cruisers from four of those boats. It was an interesting group because they represented a cross section of the variety of people who cruise Mexico.

First we met the Lee family — Brian, a software engineer; Bethany, a pianist and writer; and daughters Hannah, 14, and Meria, 12 — from the little town of Lafayette, Oregon. They are cruising aboard Lilo a 50-year-old Wayfarer/Islander 32. Despite having a smaller and older cruising boat than most, and not meeting as many other kids as they had expected, family cruising was going well.

"The girls are having a grand time," Bethany told Latitude, "and it's shocking, but they still like their parents. But we felt we needed to quickly get them out of the States and away from stateside values."

The Lees aren't new to cruising, as they've owned Lilo for six years, and have previously cruised the west coast of Vancouver Island, noted for its often cold and rough weather, and Puget Sound. They sailed south from San Diego, and plan to Bash back north in the spring. "We only have one year off," Bethany explained.

It can be difficult to carry a four-person dinghy on a small boat, so as a family project five years ago, the Lees built a nesting dinghy they could stow on the cabin top. They painted her green and christened her Split Pea. "She had been perfect for us," says Bethany.

Nobody is sure how, but while anchored at Bahia Santa Maria in early December, Split Pea and her paddles, disappeared. So the family soon found themselves at Cabo with no way to get to and from shore. Taking a berth in a marina, they quickly did some research on possible replacements. An inflatable was going to be too big to fit on the boat, and in any event, their small outboard, which they'd hardly ever used with Split Pea, wasn't going to be powerful enough. They decided the only solution was to build a new nesting dinghy.

Building a new dinghy in Cabo in a timely fashion might seem like a nearly insurmountable task, but the Lees, with an assist from some other cruisers and the very accommodating Marina Cabo San Lucas, finished the new dinghy in just five days!

The marina gave the Lees a parking space next to the desal plant as a work area, and all the security guys kept an extra close eye on things. While the Lees already had a jig- saw, a fellow boater loaned them a Skilsaw. Sourcing materials in Cabo required some walking around, as the cloth came from one place, the resin from another, and the tape from yet another. Home Depot delivered the plywood to the marina.

"Five days after making the first cut, our family christened her Red Rover and launched her," reports a proud Bethany.

"Red Rover is a little more lively than Split Pea, sort of like a playful puppy," says Brian. "Initially we thought her flat bow might be a problem, but she's been great and we love her." says Brian.

The cost of materials was $750.

The next cruiser we met was Robert Scholl — a great, great, great nephew of 'the' Dr. Scholl — of the Redwood City-based Islander Freeport 36 Four Choices. Scholl's dream is to do a circumnavigation, which he expects will really get going with a Puddle Jump in 2015, and take about 10 years.

"My wife Robin fully supports my dream, but says that I have to complete it in two years," he laughs. Scholl started heading south the day after the Ha-Ha Crew List Party last September, with his seasickness-prone wife joining him for part of the trip to San Diego. He hopes that she'll join him for more cruising this summer in the calmer waters of the Sea of Cortez.

Scholl bought his first boat, a swing keel Venture 23, in 1980. He'd put his two-year-old daughter Roseanne into a car seat, strap it to the bottom of the mast inside the cabin, then take off from the boat's berth at the 5th Street Marina in Oakland. "I'd sail the Bay with the 150% genoa up, and we'd be on our ass the whole time," Robert remembers." Despite a rough introduction to sailing, Roseanne became an excellent sailor, and recently brought her boyfriend along to cruise to Isla Isabella aboard Four Choices. "We had a marvelous time," says Robert.

A short time after owning the Venture, Robert moved up to an Ericson 29, which he would own for 25 years. In addition, he did some racing, and charters in Greece, Canada and the Caribbean.

Originally, Scholl had planned to sail around the world by crewing on other people's boats. But he soon discovered there would be a lot of scheduling issues. So two years ago, he bought the Islander specifically to go around on his own boat.

"One of the bits of gear I'm most satisfied with is my Hydrovane," he says. "The Cadillac of vanes, it's also the most expensive, as it cost $6,000 installed. But two things make it particularly good for me. First, it could be installed offset, which it had to be because of the door that opens in the back of the boat cockpit. Because it's offset, its rudder is out of the slipstream of the main rudder, and is therefore more efficient. Secondly, it's a totally independent steering system, so if the main rudder fails, I can still steer the boat using the vane rudder."

Scholl says that he's been able to cruise economically — except when he's had crew with high metabolism. "I met a young man in La Paz who had ridden his bike all the way down from Canada — and then had it stolen his first night in town! He wanted to sail to Mazatlan with me, so I took him. He had such a high metabolism that he'd eat five meals a day. He'd take a jar of peanut butter and eat the whole thing! He was eating me out of house and home," Scholl said with a laugh.

The third set of folks we met were David and Caroline Krish of the San Diego-based Contessa 26 Crazy Love. They began sailing in 2005 when Caroline, not David, suggested they take sailing lessons. They liked it enough to more recently buy the Contessa 26 so they could "go cruising while we're still young and before we have kids". David, who is a software engineer like Robert Scholl and Brian Lee, is 33. Caroline, a clinical researcher, is 37.

"Our 26-ft Crazy Love is the smallest boat we've seen out cruising so far," says Caroline. "The next smallest was 30 feet. We looked at a lot of boats, including old race boats, but decided that small and simple was good for us. First, the boats are less expensive, and second, we could learn to maintain more simple systems in a shorter amount of time."

Most of the time the couple have been content with their choice. "I only get jealous when I've been on bigger boats that have refridges and freezers, wine cellars, double beds, and those kinds of things," laughs Caroline. "But I told David the only thing the boat had to have was a real head. We're comfortable with our heavy, seaworthy, and easy-to-sail boat."

Unusually, the couple started their cruise by sailing north to San Francisco Bay in May. As one might expect, the trip up the coast of Central California wasn't the easiest in a 26-ft boat — "it was miserable at times" — but it gave the couple a lot of confidence in themselves and their boat.

"We really liked Monterey and Santa Cruz, and then we spent a wonderful month on San Francisco Bay," recalls Caroline. "But we couldn't believe how cold the Bay can be in August, and how shallow the water is off Sausalito. We enjoyed staying at South Beach Marina in San Francisco, and even walked to several S.F. Giants games."

The couple say they are going to "keep cruising until the money runs out". When we spoke to them, they weren't sure if they were going to spend the summer in the Sea. sail to Hawaii, or head down to the Canal. "I get job offers from headhunters on a weekly basis," says David, "so the idea of sailing to Hawaii and working on a contract job for six months before continuing on has considerable appeal."

The last group of folks we spoke with were Jamie Rosman and Elaine Lutz of the Taswell 49 TARDIS (they spell it with all caps) and their visiting crew, Dave Calhoun. Lots of sailors may remember Elaine, who managed Grand Marina in Alameda for a number of years before taking over at Cabrillo Isle Marina in San Diego. The couple bought their Taswell 49 in Mexico in 2000 while doing a four-month cruise with friends.

"This is our second season cruising," says Elaine. "When we sailed south last year, we took more than two months to get from San Diego to Cabo, including spending nine days at Cedros Island. We liked Cedros so much that we flew out there to visit with friends on our way to our boat this year. We are now headed to Puerto Vallarta for six weeks or so, and will then head up into the Sea of Cortez."

We didn't get to spend as much time speaking with the TARDIS crew as the others, but we made up for it with what we think is a great photo spread.

We hope you enjoyed our mini feature, which shows how very different cruisers are — except for the fact that all the guys are engineers.

— latitude/rs 01/05/2014

Legacy — Saga 43
Chris and Heather Stockard
Another Great Season in Tenacatita
(Juneau, Alaska)

It's been a particularly fun season this winter at Tenacatita Bay, the cruiser favorite on Mexico's 'Gold Coast' that is some 15 miles north of Barra de Navidad. But if anyone is looking to avoid socializing, this would not be the best place.

The usual tropical Mexican weather has been consistently pleasant, meaning sunny and warm with light breezes. The Caribbean may get endless days and nights of 20+ knots and big seas, but that's not what we find on Mexico's Gold Coast. The water temperature has been hovering between 80° and 83°, ideal for swimming, with decent clarity. The days are mostly sunny, so cruiser solar panels usually don't have much trouble keeping the batteries topped up. Given the calm waters of the anchorage, we've even had time to check some of the boat projects off our list.

February 7 was the Mayor's Raft-up, the 'mayor' being Robert Gleser of the Alameda-based Islander Freeport 41 Harmony. Thirty-two dinghies showed up for the camaraderie, making it the biggest of the season. As usual, the chefs of the fleet cooked up delicious hors d’oeuvres. And this week was the annual Talent Show. Who knew what a gifted and unique bunch of individuals we had among us?

Naturally there is a Gold Coast Cruisers Net, so everyone is able to know who is coming and going, as well as which boats have been passing through on their way down to the Zihua Sailfest.

For all we know, those of us at Tenacatita have the only cruiser swim team. Our members work out every afternoon, swimming about one-third of a mile to shore. Among the frequent participants are Terri of Mija, Patricia of Paloma, Lynn of Voyager, Julie of Slacker, Rita of Overheated, Kathy and Dan of Lungta, Sherri of Nirvana, Virginia of Harmony, Peggy of Interlude, John of L’Ange, and Janelle of Cheyenne. Everyone besides the swimmers braves a surf landing in their dinghy — although the surf has been unusually mild this year.

Once ashore, cruisers enjoy walks on the beach, bocce ball games, watching for turtle hatchings, playing Mexican Train dominoes, and hanging out in the palapa.

All of us were glad to see the first of the "liberated" boats from Marina Riviera Nayarit arrive. It was sure nice for them to enjoy the freedom of being anchored at Tenacatita versus being impounded in a marina.

— chris 02/10/2014

Cruise Notes:

The last thing anybody needs is another messy story out of Mexico, but it's hard for us to ignore one that came out of Mazatlan in January. Canadian Bob Buchanan, who arrived in Mazatlan aboard his Acapulco 40 Bolias Dream in 2000, and later founded and managed Total Boat Works at the Fonatur/Singlar Marina, suddenly disappared on January 16 along with his boat. Foul play is not suspected, but he's not been seen since. Depending on whom you believe, Buchanan was either a mediocre mechanic who shortchanged his employees, or he was an excellent mechanic and honest guy who had to flee Mexico in order to avoid being unfairly persecuted if not physically harmed. The third view is that it's an overblown mess that is a result of Buchanan and 'Rafa' Serrano's both being too stubborn. Serrano, a mechanic for Buchanan for many years, and a minority partner in Total Boat Works, split off to start a competing business last fall. The 'mess' that ensued is that Total Yacht Works employees and some suppliers were left being owed a significant amount of money. The former employees banded together to make sure that most, if not all, of the boats in repair limbo got taken care of. This despite the fact there was no assurance that they would ever be paid. Only time will tell if they have the necessary capital and management skills to run the business, but we wish them — as well as Buchanan and Serrano — all the very best.

"My C&C 44 Fury has been in Marina de La Paz since mid November, and has not been embargoed," writes Fred Hazzard. "I would like to do the Banderas Bay Regatta, but I'm concerned that by moving to another marina I would subject my boat to the risk of being 'audited' by AGACE. Further complicating my decision of whether to sail to Vallarta for the cruising regatta is the fact that my boat's insurance policy has lapsed and I'm having difficulty getting another reasonable one in effect. I would appreciate your thoughts."

AGACE didn't visit any marinas in La Paz, so if they were going to 'audit' more boats — which we don't think they will anytime soon — we imagine the chances they'd do it in La Paz are greater than in the Vallarta area, where they have already audited boats in three marinas. The Banderas Bay Regatta is a great cruisers' event, so if we were in your boat shoes, we'd go for it. As for insurance, we can't see why it would be hard to get a C&C 44 insured. You might not be able to get it for as low a price as you want, but to do the best you can, you've got to — as the old Motown song goes — shop around. The pages of Latitude are a good place to look.

Speaking of the Banderas Bay Regatta, most readers probably remember last year's unfortunate starting-line collision between the Portland-based Hunter 54 Camelot and the La Cruz-based J/160 Blue, in which La Cruz sailmaker Mike Danielson slipped between the two boats and had both his legs broken. It was an extremely contentious incident that went viral in the sailing world. We didn't look forward to the time this season when the principals' paths would cross again. Surprisingly, it turned out far better than anyone could have hoped for. When Jane Roy of Camelot saw Cheryl Sears of Blue, she rushed over to her and blurted out, "Give me a hug." Before long Craig Shaw of Camelot and Ken Sears of Blue were shaking hands. The incident is over, and everyone is looking to the future. That said, it will be interesting to see what measures, if any, the Vallarta YC takes to prevent similar incidents in the future.

If somebody opens a sail loft called Morrelli Sails, you have to wonder if there is any connection with Gino Morrelli, half of the super-successful multihull design team of Morrelli & Melvin. It turns out that the new Morrelli Sails loft in La Cruz is owned by Tony Morrelli, Gino's gregarious brother.

When the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca got to his Leopard 45 catamaran 'ti Profligate in Tortola in mid-February, there was a bit of a problem. A charterer had recently put the cat up onto the rocks at White Bay, Jost van Dyke, and made a mess of one of the keels. While we could have used the boat anyway — the keels are sacrificial — there were three reasons we leaned toward having 'ti hauled right then: 1) We were nearing deadline, and thus had to bang on a keyboard all day and half the night, and couldn't use the boat anyway. 2) 'ti had been so busy for the last bunch of months that there hadn't been time for her annual haulout. 3) The weather was crap for at least the next week for heading across the Anegada Passage to St. Barth. Our only fear was that the haulout would drag on and on and on, as they do.

Sharn, the young manager at Soper's Hole Boatyard, told us not to worry as they repair or replace catamaran keels all the time. "We can have the keel repaired in three days," he said." What?! "But we'll need another day to paint the bottom, replace the cutlass bearings and do the other annual stuff." If the yard could do all that in four days, we asked him if they could take one more day and change the boot and cove stripes from Moorings red and blue to a custom turquoise and yellow, and get rid of the striping on the side of the cabin. And they did! We were flabbergasted. It turns out that in the charter center of the universe, nobody has time for boats to be out of service, so the yards have to get work done work quickly.

About the third week of February, two good friends of Latitude, Greg King of the Long Beach-based 65-ft schooner Coco Kai, and Kirk McGeorge of the Virgin Islands-based Hylas 49 Gallivanter, were about to start their 6,000-mile voyages from Cape Town up to the Caribbean, with a couple of stops along the way. Sailing down the east coast of South Africa is always a dicey proposition. McGeorge, who is sailing to the Virgin Islands to reunite with his wife and son, filed two reports:

"Feb. 11: It was a battle, but we arrived in Port Elizabeth last Saturday after an 89-hour, 470-mile passage from Durban. We caught two fish and enjoyed about 12 hours of favorable sailing conditions. The rest was difficult. But nothing broke and nobody got hurt. Most of our chores are done, so we're relaxing and doing a little safari in anticipation of our next leg around the Cape of Good Hope and onward to Cape Town."

"Feb. 16: Greetings from Cape Town! We arrived yesterday after a nice and uneventful 480-mile passage from Port Elizabeth under pure sailing conditions, which I'm told is a rare thing in these parts. We got in just in time to avoid the 53-knot winds that roared through last night."

Greg King, who must have crossed paths with McGeorge at Cape Town, had the following two reports:

"Feb 7: Arrived at Port Elizabeth after a 24-hour, 400-mile run from Durban. I saw a top speed of 14.7 knots. Coco Kai doesn't go that fast. Thank you, Aghulas Current!"

"Feb. 8: Had a great day. Went inland and did some wine tasting, drove down to False Bay and had a couple brews at the Brass Bell, drove to Hout Bay and had a couple more brews — and the best calamari ever. Then we took the coast route back to Cape Town. We just took on 27 cases of wine and Champagne that will be stowed until the boss meets the boat in Barbados in June." [The 'boss' is Jennifer Sanders of Los Angeles, King's girlfriend and the owner of the schooner.]

One of Coco Kai's crew is David Nichols, who has become an 'accidental crewmember' for the sail across the South Atlantic. "I came to Cape Town to say farewell to my friends who are sailing to the Caribbean via Brazil. Well, one thing led to another, and now I am joining them on a fantastic adventure! We leave for St. Helena as soon as the weather improves, and should end our journey in Barbados in June."

Having both done the stormy east coast of South Africa, once McGeorge and King get a couple of hundred miles from Cape Town, they can expect 6,000 miles of about the most pleasant sailing the planet has to offer.

"We were pretty beat when we arrived in Acapulco after a two-night trip from Huatulco with a sputtering engine," report Guy and Carol Dean of the San Francisco-based Seawind 33 cat Stray Cat. "We'd stopped in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica on our way back up from Panama, and had a good trip. While in Panama, we helped a friend take his boat through the Canal, then decided we'd head back to Mexico. We started having to live with thunder and lightning in Panama way back in April, and let us tell you, it gets hot in Panama! We never realized that our skin could be so sensitive to the heat. Coming north, we only stopped at La Marina in Acapulco because we needed a new fuel pump for our port engine. While there, we found six boats on the dock with SAT (Mexican IRS) 'temporary embargo' notifications taped to them. All six appeared to be local boats. When we asked a boat boy washing one of the boats what the taped-on signs meant, he just shrugged."

"There was a request on the Mazatlan morning net in early February for someone who speaks Russian," reports Rob Murray. Apparently a sailboat, believed to be a Westsail 32 with two Russians aboard, was lost in heavy seas north of Mazatlan. The two were reportedly rescued by a helicopter from the Mexican navy and taken to the navy hospital in Mazatlan. As a result of the incident, the port captain was looking for someone who speaks Russian."

Can anybody confirm this story? Does anybody know more about it?

Jack is starting to look for a new boat! In one of the most heartbreaking stories we've ever had to report, last November Jack van Ommen, the 76-year-old adventurer from Gig Harbor, Washington, lost his Naja 30 Fleetwood to a rocky cove of Tago Mago, one of the smallest of Spain's Balearic Islands. It happened at 4 a.m., and all that remained of the boat that van Ommen had completed from a kit were small bits of flotsam. Decades after doing a Singlehanded TransPac and having the boat sit unused on a trailer, van Ommen had gone bankrupt, and about all he had left was the boat and modest monthly Social Security checks. Yet that was all he needed to begin to live an extremely rich and rewarding life, one that has seen him cruise 47,843 miles, transit 565 locks in Europe, and visit something like 50 countries. After van Ommen lost Fleetwood, he declined offers of financial assistance from Latitude and others, saying he had $5,000 in the bank and was thus "fine for now".

We're glad to report that van Ommen has already begun looking for a replacement boat. "I will likely end up with an inexpensive 28+ footer in need of my reconstructive skills," he wrote. "I'll probably look on the Atlantic Coast or the Great Lakes. As an example, I saw an Alberg 30 on Lake Michigan for $5,000 that would need another $5,000 or so in reinforcements, maintenance, and so forth. One of my dreams with Fleetwood, after taking her to South America so I could land-travel there, was to sail her up to the Great Lakes, then take her down the Mississippi. So maybe I can still do that."

"We hope the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca are enjoying St. Barth, you bastards," write friends John and Debbie Rogers of the San Diego-based Deerfoot 62-2 Moonshadow. "While we really wish we were there, La Cruz ranks as a pretty good consolation prize, and we're getting a lot of much-needed painting done here at the La Cruz Shipyard. Tonight we met cruisers Ed and Connie Quesada of the Newport Beach-based Cardinal 46 Sirena under, for them, less than ideal circumstances. While taking photos of the frigate birds flying around our casita with a 300mm lens, I noticed a boat well off the entrance to Marina Riviera Nayarit with what looked like a stubby-looking mast. As owners of one of those stubby-masted Deerfoots, Debbie and I take notice of such things. But it turned out not to be a stubby mast, but a dismasted Sirena.

We later met Ed and Connie, who were dealing with the aftermath of the day's disaster a lot better than Deb and I think we would have. They reported that while sailing with friends in flat seas and just 15 knots of wind, the bolts on Sirena's starboard upper shroud chainplate broke. All five of them! The chainplate came off, and the top half of the mast went over. Fortunately for Ed and Connie, nobody was hurt, and there were six experienced sailors aboard. For us, Sirena's misfortune was a valuable wake-up call to be aware of any corrosion in or around our boat's chainplates and their fasteners. We will be pulling a few of our chainplate bolts to inspect them before our next sail aboard Moonshadow!

"The publisher of Latitude once asked me if I would circumnavigate again," writes Max Young of Antioch, who did a 12-year, 36,000-mile circumnavigation with his Perry 47 Reflections — prior to her being sunk by a whale while he was singlehanding a Baja Bash in 2012. "I told him, 'Yes, I would circumnavigate again in a heartbeat if I was younger. I will be 70 soon.' The thing that I neglected to add was: 'Those 12 years of circumnavigating have been the best 12 years of my life!' I orginally planned on taking three or four years to go around, but then I stayed in Australia for 3 1/2 years, Thailand for 18 months, Turkey for 18 months, Italy for 18 months, and the East Coast of the United States for a year."

Snow skiing in Baja? We recently read an article in the New York Times by a contributor to a skiing magazine, and he listed some of the more unusual places he's skied. Although we lost the clipping, we recall that he said one of the places was Mt. Pancho — or something — in Baja. We suppose if they can snow ski in Hawaii, they can ski in Baja.

Returning to St. Martin and St. Barth after a two-year absence are Greg Dorland and Debbie Macrorie of the Tahoe-based Catana 52 Escapade. "Debbie's cooking is still hot and the Escapade's wine cellar is full, so we're ready to return to St. Barth," says Greg. "But I have two warnings about St. Martin. First, the authorities have gotten serious about charging boats to anchor at Marigot Bay. Second, after anchoring in front of the Tastevin restaurant at Grand Case, a marine police boat came by and asked us to leave because some pilots were complaining about our mast being in the flight path! Mind you, we're not talking about Queen Julianna Airport on the Dutch side of the island ­— which is notorious for the hairy landings and for 747 takeoffs that blow sunbathers off the beach and into the ocean — but little L'Espérance Airport on the French side that services dinky little planes."

You meet the most interesting people out cruising. Take John Everton, who along with his wife Veronica has lived and raised two kids aboard the legendary 50-ft wood ketch Gaucho. While at a bar in the British Virgins, John told us that although he was born in Grinnell, Iowa, he learned to sail in Rangoon, Burma. It turns out that his dad was John F. Kennedy's ambassador to Burma, and young Everton learned to sail when visiting from the boardiing school he attended in the Phillipines. Given his cosmopolitan upbringing, it's no wonder that John didn't marry the 'girl next door', but rather Veronica, a bird from London.

The Evertons tell us they had a wonderful cruising season last year, highlighted by a month at North Sound in the British Virgins. "Sometimes we didn't see another boat in the whole Sound," they say, "and the most we ever saw was five boats." To put this into context, North Sound is packed with bareboats and a sprinkling of mega-yachts during the winter season. But come September, everybody thinks it's too hot and humid. "The weather wasn't bad at all," says 'Roni', "thanks to the ever-present breeze." If threatened by a tropical storm, the couple would have quickly retreated to Coral Bay, St. John, in the U.S. Virgins. But there were no such threats.

This February wasn't as good as Sepember was for the Evertons and Gaucho, as they were T-boned in the Soper's Hole anchorage by a motorsailing charter cat. "Gaucho was built of good hardwoods, so she'll be fine," says John. Why is Gaucho legendary? She was built in Argentina in 1943 for diplomat Ernesto Uriburu, who won the Blue Water Medal for what would be nearly 70,000 miles of ocean cruising between Buenos Aires and the Suez Canal, as well as retracing Columbus' Voyage of Discovery.

"A couple of days ago we went out to our Catalina 42 Destiny at the La Cruz anchorage, and the anchor locker hatch smacked my arm, leaving a reasonable-sized wound," writes John Foy. "Gilly dressed it, but it kept bleeding a bit. We decided that it would be prudent to have it checked, so we went to the salud — the health clinic — in La Cruz. A very nice young female doctor re-dressed the wound and suggested that I take a 10-day regimen of antibiotics and get a tetanus shot. So for 516 pesos — or $39 at the current exchange rate — I received the consultation, antibiotic cream, 10 days of amoxicillin, bandages, rubber gloves and a tetanus shot — which I had to get in nearby Bucerias. Even with Medicare, I can't even guess how much more it would have cost in the States. We're full-time residents of Punta Mita after living in Alameda for many years, and have had many wonderful experiences with health care providers in Mexico, and at extremely favorable prices."

"I just read the Wanderer's report from the Caribbean, and I feel his pain about having trouble finding decent Internet in order to work," writes John Thompson. "He really ought to check out getting Internet through a phone network, as it's way more reliable than having to find Wi-Fi hotspots. It's not that expensive, and it's available almost everywhere. I was in the Caribbean for most of January doing a Moorings charter from St. Lucia to Grenada, and bought a SIM card for my phone from Digicel. It came with 50mb of data per day, and cost about $25 per month. I have an Android phone with a built-in wireless data-sharing connection with my computer, and it was easy to set up. I know a lot of people get Internet on their boats through the phone system in Mexico, and now it works great in the Caribbean, too. If you need more than 50mb per day, there are other quick and easy plans that you can sign up with. With such a setup, the Wanderer could easily work from his boat and not have to hunt for Internet at McDonalds or some other less-than-ideal 'office'."

Alas, last year we bought SIM cards for St. Barth in both St. Martin and St. Barth. Neither worked. But we'll try again this year.

Out cruising? We'd love to hear from you. A paragraph and a couple of high res photos are fine.

Missing the pictures? See the March 2014 eBook!


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