With reports this month from Moondance on the rough trip up the Red Sea; from New Adventures on a cruising kids' surfing competition in Tenacatita Bay; from Seeadler on crossing the Atlantic a second time; from Maude I. Jones on the second part of their trip from New Zealand to Australia; from Heart of Gold on the passage up from Panama; from the Cruisers in Z-town on a party for the Corenmans; from Destiny on the joys of Cartagena; from Puffin on surviving the sinking of their boat; and Cruise Notes.
Our trip up the Red Sea turned out to be faster than we expected, and we are now in the Gulf of Suez. Our short term plan is to slow down a bit to see a little more of Egypt. In April we plan to make our way up to Turkey via Israel.
Our long term plan is to spend the spring in the eastern Med, summer in the western Med, and then put the boat in a marina until the end of the year. We'll be returning to the Bay Area in September so the boys can enroll in school this fall. Around the end of the year or early next year, we're going to take a couple of months off to complete our circumnavigation by sailing back to the Caribbean. We bought our boat in the Caribbean, sailed her to the Bay Area, then started again with the '98 Ha-Ha.
Now for an interesting question. Recognizing that the thousand mile slog into the headwinds and short, steep chop of the Red Sea is one of the worst legs of a circumnavigation, is it any easier or harder in a catamaran than a monohull? Based on our experience, the type of boat doesn't seem to matter, as we've yet to find anyone who thought sailing up the Red Sea was fun. This is not to say that the Red Sea should be missed, as the places are interesting, the people are fascinating, and the diving is great.
However, the simple truth is that the sailing and the motorsailing up the Red Sea is just plain hard - and both multihulls and monohulls do a lot of banging. We probably had fewer things fall off the counters and salon tables than did the owners of monohulls, but our cat probably banged more. Ever after loading - perhaps overloading - our cat, we still had about 27 inches of bridgedeck clearance. In all but the worst conditions, this seemed to be adequate.
As was the case while crossing the Pacific, we found that the cruising speed of our 45-ft catamaran going up the Red Sea compared well with that of a 50-ft cruising monohull. For example, we sailed up the Red Sea in the company of a Tayana 52. We followed them into the Straits of Bab el Mandeb at the southern end of the Sea by about a day, and then out of the Sea at the Strait of Gubal at the northern end also by a day.
Of our 24 days in the Red Sea, we spent 15 of them sailing and nine at anchor. Both we and the Tayana anchored five times, usually together. Over the course of 1,040 nautical miles, we spent one or two more days sailing than they did, but they used their engine about 75 hours more. In general, I'd say the boats were pretty even.
It's noteworthy that both we and the Tayana preferred sailing to motoring or motorsailing whenever we could make equally good progress - even if it required that we sail well offshore. According to the Red Sea Pilot - which is 'the book' - the wind is lighter in the middle of the Red Sea due to an absence of sea breeze reinforcement. So by sailing up the middle of the Red Sea, we essentially 'hid' from the worst winds. Both of us also found that motoring up the coast in short hops was dreadful - and therefore only did it once.
The major difference between the Tayana 52 and our cat was our cat's relative inability to be able to motor or motorsail directly into heavy chop. Generally speaking, we found that it was better for us to fall off just a little bit, shut the engine down, and sail. Another of the big reasons we motored about 75 hours less than the Tayana is that our fuel tanks are much smaller, and because our Hurth transmissions were slipping. I still feel our engine/drive system/prop combination is not the optimum.
Some people are interested in knowing whether monohulls or multihulls tend to bail out earlier when the going gets rough heading into high winds and nasty waves. In our experience, it's not so much a matter of boat type as attitude of the crew. During the course of our transit, we both passed and were passed by larger and smaller monohulls and larger and smaller mulithulls. As it was, we only bailed out once, and that was when the wind was in the 30-knot range. Our primary reason for bailing was stopping to caulk a window leak that we'd forgotten to get to. While we had plenty of confidence in our boat, rig and sails, we had no interest in finding the 40+ knot winds some of the other boats were reporting.
Unfortunately, the Internet hasn't really made it to the Middle East yet. "Soon," is what we're told when we ask when they'll get it. As such, we won't be able to post new photos on our web site until we get to Israel.
- the matzke family
Tenacatita Bay - 127 miles south of Puerto Vallarta and 351 miles north of Acapulco - on mainland Mexico's 'Gold Coast' is a beautiful and unique spot. The 3-mile by 5-mile bay offers good protection and flat water for peaceful anchoring, and there are many things to do. Some of the activities include taking a jungle ride, exploring the different parts of the bay by dinghy, eating the famous fish roll-ups, dining at the French restaurant that occupies the old movie set for McHale's Navy, playing on the long sandy beach, snorkeling at a reef known as 'the aquarium' - but above all, surfing the great waves!
I'm a 13-year old native of Vancouver who started cruising Mexico this winter with my parents. Shortly after arriving in Mexico, I took up surfing, which is the fine art of trying to catch - but not always succeeding - and ride really great waves. It wasn't an activity I'd been able to pursue in the cold waters of Canada. Having been working at surfing for several months now, I have to admit that I've become something of a surfing dudette. But it wasn't until we reached Tenacatita Bay in the middle of February that I encountered really good surf that fully challenged my new skills.
The best spot to surf in Tenacatita is near the entrance to the 'jungle ride' through the mangroves. When the tide was low, the waves broke far enough out so that I could ride them for quite a distance. In fact, I was able to walk as much as 100 yards out with the water never coming over my shoulders. I have to admit that I was in surf heaven.
I had no idea that surf could get any better than that, but little did I know that there were storms several thousand miles away in Alaska creating waves that would travel all the way down to Mexico and break in Tenacatita Bay as great surf.
As you can see from the accompanying photographs, quite a few of us younger cruising kids are into surfing, boogie-boarding and otherwise enjoying the waves. So each day after we finished our schoolwork, my fellow surfing dudes and dudettes would hit the waves. Before long, we noticed that the waves seemed to just get bigger and bigger. These were no longer the little waves that people who live along the bay were accustomed to. For a little while we actually had waves of five to eight feet - which is very big for beginners.
Thanks to the help of Eric and Jackie Mears from the Long Beach-based Islander 41 Makai, and Don and Hossack of the Truckee-based Islander 36 Windward Luv, on February 22 we decided to hold the Tenacatita Inaugural Surf Contest of the Millennium. The event was held on George Washington's Birthday because he was rumored to have surfed Tenacatita back when he was our age.
We had three great judges for the event: Eric, Jackie, and Don from the Balboa Island-based Kelly-Peterson 44 Tamure. We also had lots of interested spectators. Five guys and I competed at surfing, five others boogie-boarded, and there were six other kids having fun on the beach and in the waves. After four hours of surfing fun, 26 awards were given out for things such as longest ride, raddest style, gnarliest drop in, most waves caught, and the 'Mexican Red Cross' for the surfer who demonstrated the least regard for his/her personal safety. Thanks to Chris Righetti of the 30-ft custom catamaran Hiolani from Santa Barbara who took some great pictures for mementoes.
When the contest was over, everyone went home pretty exhausted. Thanks to the big surf, some of us were hurting a little, too. How big was it? Only three dinghies tried to make it to the beach - and all three of them dumped! The big waves seemed to come and go with Washington's Birthday, so soon we were back to small waves.
After a summer in the Sea of Cortez, our boat will return to mainland Mexico - and more surfing - next winter. So be ready for another kids' surf contest in Tenacatita! After that, New Discovery will return to the Sea for a second summer, then get shipped back to Vancouver. Cowabunga!
- leah 3/15/00
Here's an account of our trip across the Atlantic that started in May of 1999. Our crew consisted of Ingo and Espie, the husband and wife team who own the boat; Dieter, our friend of 40 years who crossed the Atlantic with us our first time in 1980; and John from Texas, our friend of two years. We met John and his wife Myra during the 10 months we spent in Guatemala's Rio Dulce. They had sailed their 47-footer there from Texas.
We'd actually arrived in Fort Lauderdale in May of '98, at which time we started a complete refit of the boat. That meant removing everything: boat parts, books, clothes, our personal stuff, food, all the cushions - everything from stem to stern. We put it all in storage for six months. We then stripped the teak from top to bottom - including 40 doors and drawers - and then applied five coats of satin varnish, sanding between coats. We also replaced our 20-gallon water tank with a 70-gallon tank.
The downside of doing the work in Fort Lauderdale is that we had a lot of lightning storms and hurricane George passed within 140 miles. In addition, it was usually 90 degrees and very humid in the summer. Since we came from California, we didn't have air-conditioning - which is a must in Florida. In the midst of all our work, we drove back to California - and also visited the Bahamas with a friend who has a private plane.
After a big bon voyage party, we left on May 4 for Bermuda and across the Atlantic. Leaving to cross the Pond is like jumping into cold water; you don't have to - unless you want to find out what's beyond the horizon. Starting is tough, but once you get in tune with your surroundings, you get into a ship's routine. We rode the Gulfstream north of the Bahamas, but then ran into short and steep seas. We decided to pull into Palm Beach, Florida, to get some rest and wait for things to quiet down.
We woke up early the next morning, and when I saw a candle in my morning brownie, I realized that Espie hadn't forgotten my birthday. Dieter had lots of cards and a present from my family in Germany. By 0800 we had the anchor up and headed off again on the 900-mile passage to Bermuda. When we got out into the Stream, we found that the seas had laid down. The first night I took the 2100 to midnight watch, Dieter did 12 to 0300, and John from 0300 to 0600. We stayed with the same watch system all the way across the Atlantic. Espie didn't stand a watch, but prepared three great meals a day. This was quite a feat, as she suffers from seasickness.
On the first night, Dieter called John to help him avoid a ship. John was able to convince him that it was actually the moon! But better safe than sorry. After two days we still hadn't seen a ship - but we were buzzed by a low flying military plane. It had two props, but was flying on one. After two days Espie began to feel better.
Our trip to Bermuda was characterized by light winds and motoring. We had quite a bit of thunderclouds and then spotted a waterspout about two miles away. This one lasted for about 15 minutes. They're spooky because, like lightning, you never know when they're going to hit.
After waiting all night off Bermuda for daylight, we pulled in to St. George Harbor, eight days out of Fort Lauderdale. After checking in, we dropped the hook and spent the better part of a week there. Bermuda is super expensive! It was $3.28 for a gallon of diesel, and $15 for fish & chips. Fortunately, bus transportation was cheap, so we toured from one side of the island to the other. We also had to take on water at a dime a gallon. Our crew of four had used 55 gallons in nine days, which wasn't bad. Soon we found out we could buy duty free fuel from a truck for $1.25 a gallon, so we bought 77 gallons. Most cruisers didn't get in on this deal.
Although we were ready for the 1,800-mile passage to Horta in the Azores, we had three days of nothing but wind and rain. Two sailboats that had left four days before returned because of big seas. We finally left on May 20, and two hours later Radio Bermuda issued a warning for thunderstorms. Soon the sky got really dark and the island disappeared. We had lots of lighting and saw another waterspout, but pretty soon that weather had passed and we were obliged to turn on the motor. Half an hour later, we heard a frightful grinding noise from the transmission! We took it out of gear, and it was fine. We put it back into gear, and it was fine. We didn't have trouble with it again.
In the first 24 hours, we made a total of 117 miles in a variety of conditions. We also use the autopilot to steer the boat, but then it went crazy. This could have been serious, as we didn't want to hand steer all the way across the Atlantic. Then we noticed that Dieter had placed his radio too close to the autopilot, messing up the compass.
One night a third of the way to Horta, I was sitting in the cockpit, a half moon illuminating the swells, while Seeadler charged along. I spent a lot of time thinking about my wife, my family, my friends, and my own life. You get reflective in the middle of the ocean. I also thought about the 'puddle jump' nickname given to Atlantic crossings. At 3,700 miles, it's quite a jump.
At the halfway mark, we saw and spoke with a cruise ship headed to the Azores. It was the first ship we'd seen in four days. Life aboard our boat was pretty routine by this time, but the highlights were always breakfast, lunch and dinner. I think Espie has the hardest job on the boat, fixing three meals a day for four people down-below in a small galley. Just making hot water can be hard and dangerous when the boat is rolling, so we had a couple of 'peanut butter and jelly days'. Sometimes John and Dieter helped with the dishes.
After a couple of more days, we picked up some pretty strong wind and had to reef. The next day we were sailing into six foot seas and it was bouncy down below. John was taking his harness off down below when a big wave tossed him into the door of the head - which gave way. Dieter, who was sitting on the toilet, was pretty surprised. I'm glad nobody was hurt, but I couldn't help but laugh.
Two days later there wasn't any wind and we had to motor again. I was surprised we didn't have more consistent wind. But the next day we were really flying at nearly seven knots.
We finally arrived in Horta on the evening of June 2. It had taken us 14 days to travel 1,800 miles - an average of 5.3 knots - and we only motored 70 hours. It had taken us 18 days to cover the same distance in Born Free, our previous boat. We are really happy with the performance of our Valiant - and that of our new jib. We had wind from all directions and up to 30 knots, but mostly it was in the 15 to 20-knot range.
- ingo 12/00
While in the Solomon Islands, we spent the majority of our time in the Western Province - which is considered to be the most westernized. The locals, who are friendly and articulate, are renowned for their wood and stone carvings. They're also skilled salespeople, so we did quite a bit of trading. We never dreamed they'd be interested in some of the commonplace stuff we had on our boat, but they were. For instance, they were happy to trade a beautifully carved bowl or mask for one of our bath towels! The carvers were also interested in electrical tools, hand tools, Walkmans, cassette tapes, bed sheets, towels, children's clothes, church clothes for themselves, and outboard motors. As such, their desires were considerably more sophisticated than the ni-Vanuatu!
We intended to visit Guadalcanal, unfortunately there was a state of emergency in effect. The problem was that two island groups were committing terrorist acts over land rights. As a consequence, tourism at one of World War II's major historical sites had come to a standstill. The number of visiting cruising boats was way down also, so the carvers - who are really good guys - were therefore having trouble marketing their crafts.
Do you like lobster? We had a great time visiting Morovo Lagoon, a huge body of water on New Georgia Island that is protected by a fringing reef and has many islets to visit. We had no trouble trading for lobster as many of the locals are Seventh Day Adventists - whose religion prohibits them from eating shellfish. Rob was also very successful in spearing fish for our meals. The weather at 8º South was glorious - although a little muggy.
One of our most memorable anchorages was at Uepi Island - a resort that reminded us of the El Caballito de Mar resort we built in Costa Rica before going cruising. We splurged and dined at their restaurant twice, enjoying all the fresh lobster, mud crab claws, shrimp and veggies that had been prepared to perfection! The snorkeling at Uepi, which is located at a pass into the lagoon, was simply magic, with beautiful corals and abundant sea life.
Unfortunately, it was about this time that we had to start thinking about refueling and moving on to Australia for the onset of cyclone season in the Western South Pacific. This is actually the breeding ground for cyclones, so they rarely get anything over 70 knots, but the summer season is also very humid and buggie. Our growing list of maintenance projects for Maude also made it important that we continue on to Oz.
We only did daysails throughout New Georgia, as the maze of coral reefs makes navigation very difficult. Many places are either inaccurately charted or uncharted, so we depended on 'mud maps' that previous yachties have sketched, copied and passed down for years. The reports also indicated that the best place to get diesel was at Noro on the west coast of North Georgia Island, where there's a major fish cannery for the Solomons.
We arrived at Noro on our 11th wedding anniversary. Our plan was to fuel up and then continue on to a nice anchorage. Unfortunately, the government declared a public holiday for National Clean-Up Day, so the banks were closed and there was no fuel to be had. We ended up tying up to the fuel dock for the night, and got to watch all the commercial boats unload their catch of the previous week. As if that wasn't enough to make Mary an unhappy camper, we then got battered by an hour-long squall.
When the sky finally cleared, one of the cannery supervisors gave us a yellowfin tuna to go along with the bottle of chardonnay we had chilling in the fridge. Even though our anniversary dinner consisted of nothing but sashimi, Mary had become a happy camper. After all, we hadn't caught any tuna in a long time. By the way, we never saw anybody clean anything up, so we're not sure how successful the holiday was.
After fueling up, we spent a couple days meandering around Vono Vona Lagoon, then continued to Gizo Island to provision and check out of the Solomons. Gizo is a little shanty town that still uses many of the quonset huts left over from World War II. It also had dirt roads and a plethora of shops run by local Chinese. They also have an outstanding fruit and veggie market a couple of days a week, which is where we stocked up on provisions. We also bought a few trading items that we could use for our next destination: the Louisiades Archipelago of Papua New Guinea - which is about halfway to Australia.
After sailing 200 miles south of Gizo, we made landfall at Laughlin Atoll, just a speck on our chart of the Solomon Sea. As a result, we again had to use a mud map to guide us. Since we'd made a last minute decision to stop here, we weren't sure what to expect. It turned out to be another one of those cases of 'No expectations, pleasant surprises.'
At Laughlin, beautiful palm-covered white sand atolls surround a lagoon that is dotted with coral heads - but with water so clear that it was easy to navigate by eyeball in calm conditions. We were greeted by several outrigger canoes full of smiling pikininis, the politically correct term for children in all of these islands. After our initial welcome - and that for buddyboats Caribbean Blue and Piña Colada - we retreated to our bunk to rest up from the two-day passage. The next morning we visited the two inhabited islands - and found we were the third, fourth and fifth boats respectively to have visited the paradise this season!
These people are so isolated that they were just thrilled to see new faces!! We were overwhelmed by their generosity even though they were living below the poverty line in a dollar-based economy. Again we dug deeper into our lockers to find yet more clothes, bags of rice, pencils, paper, cutlery and so forth to give to these delightful people. In return we received a wonderful feast of delicious island cuisine: lobster, mud crab, coconut crab, (free range) chicken and several vegetables cooked in coconut cream. We were entranced by these people and started to think this would be a place we would like to return with more donations. We did leave them with several Polaroid photos of the villagers, a real delight.
An amazing aspect of these New Guineans is that their canoes are almost all ready to be rigged to sail - and that they actually sail them to the mainland. They use 18-ft canoes - with sails made from plastic sheeting - to travel to islands that are more than 100 miles away. The kids are intrepid sailors and get a kick out of racing one another.
A change of weather prompted us to weigh our anchor on day four, when we set sail south towards the Calvados Island chain of the Louisiades. This island group is very isolated; 130 miles south of Laughlin and east of the Papua New Guinea mainland. We again had no expectations - and again we were very pleasantly surprised to find such a beautiful group of islands. The locals were delightful - and very generous with the veggies they grew in their gardens.
One afternoon I gave a young girl a meter of flowered fabric in return for a handful of limes. The next day I went on a 45-mile walk over 'hill and dale' to visit a school - and noticed this eight-year-old girl wearing a new short and top outfit made from the fabric I'd traded! She really stood out in the crowd of children who wore faded dresses and T-shirts that by most standards were due for disposal.
As at Laughlin atoll, the locals in these islands were also keen sailors who seem to really enjoy their primary mode of transportation. We were constantly amazed at their sailing skills - and the cut of their patch work quilt look of their mainsails was very smart.
After a four-day passage we entered Australian waters and sailed through a pass of the Great Barrier Reef on the north coast of Queensland. We checked into Townsville on October 14 to start a six month visit to the east coast of Australia to explore and take care of maintenance.
- rob & mary 3/1/00
When we came through the Canal, things were a bit shaky. We only had to wait four days in Colon to get a transit date to the Pedro Miguel Boat Club. But then Carnival came along, the yacht advisors didn't come to work for a few days, and a lot more boats showed up wanting to transit. When we left in mid-March, the wait had gotten to 10 days - and was growing. There simply weren't enough advisors to go around.
Our transit was fine and without drama. But during the three weeks we spent at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, we heard of three boats that suffered damage. Most of the problems seemed to occur in the Miraflores Locks when moving into the lower lock from the upper lock and getting caught by the current. Apparently, it's long been the most dangerous part of a Canal transit for the unwary.
We enjoyed our somewhat lengthy stay at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, which is on Miraflores Lake in the middle of the Canal. It's run by great folks, and there were a particularly nice bunch of visiting cruisers when we were there. The club is convenient to Balboa and Panama City for provisioning, and with Balboa YC gone forever, it makes a nice R&R stop.
Our advice to anyone making the trip up from Panama to Mexico is to take a lot of fuel! We had to do plenty of motoring as there was less wind than we'd hoped for. We did get a breeze from the Gulf of Papagayo northward for about 100 miles. It started at 20-25 knots, tapered off to 10 to 15 knots, and then we just had afternoon breezes - mostly on the nose - until the Gulf of Tehauntepec. When we got to Tehuantepec we had 20 to 25 knots again, but only for 20 miles as we passed Salina Cruz right on the beach. There were lots of great places to stop along the way, but it was getting toward late March when we left the Canal and therefore pretty late.
We stopped at the sleepy commerical harbor for fuel, and a couple of young guys who run John y Sam's Yacht Services arranged for fuel and took us around to do the paperwork. We also stopped at Hualtuco, a nice town and harbor - except for the dredge digging to make it deep enough for cruise ships. Acapulco looked the same as before, and we still like it.
We're sailing from Puerto Vallarta to Hawaii, and then to our place in the San Juans. With the completion of our circumnavigation, we'll split the winter between the San Juans and Alameda.
- jim & sue 4/05/00
We had a cruisers' party on April 6 to warmly welcome Jim Corenman, one of the gurus of SailMail, and his lovely wife Sue, to Zihuatenejo. They arrived for a few days rest with Heart of Gold before taking on the last several hundred miles of their circumnavigation.
Fun was had by all. Jim and Sue are in the front row, third and fourth from the left. Welcoming them are Barry and Kathy Devine of Joss; Don and Ann Becker of Starshine; Bob and Nancy Leasure of Aequinimitas; Jim Barden and Suzy van Acker of Ann Marie; Bob and Marcy Krambeck of Best of Times; Marc and Teri Mendelson of Tauranga; Rick Kain of Inshallah; Tom Mortensen of Anticipation; Bob Jans of On the Way; and Ed and Norma Hasselmann of Heather K. Most of the other cruisers that were here earlier in the year had either gone back north or headed for the Canal.
During the Corenmans' stop, a special Certificate of Appreciation was signed by all to be sent to Sally Honey, SysOp for SailMail. We all wanted to thank her for staying at home and working hard to keep SailMail running smoothly - while Stan, SailMail co-founder and hubby, gets to play setting TransPac records and attempting to set transatlantic records. And while co-founder Jim Corenman and wife Sue get to visit all the exotic ports in the world.
In any event, the party was held at Rick's Bar, which is located next to the Pemex fuel dock. Rick's has become the local hangout for cruisers. On Friday nights, any and all cruisers with a musical instrument get to show their talents at the jam session.
- ed & norma 4/18/00
We recently spent a month of December in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia - and we would like to tell everyone what a wonderful city it is! Having gotten a good weather window, we made a non-stop 500-mile downwind passage straight from Curaçao. We sailed so fast we had to go bare poles the last five hours so we wouldn't arrive before daylight.
Colombian hospitality begins when you enter the Boca Chica channel which leads up to the city. The Port Control says, "Welcome to Cartagena" over the radio and asks what your intentions are. After your answer, they either tell you to proceed or wait until a large ship passes through the narrow entrance. In addition, they ask that you call them with your location when you get anchored.
It's also possible to enter Cartagena through the Boca Grande channel, which actually goes over an underwater wall. Boats that entered this way reported a depth of at least 13 feet. Even though we draw only 8.5 feet, we decided against it.
After you pass the statue of the Virgin in the middle of the harbor, you have a choice of either anchoring or going into the Club Nautico or the Club de Pesca. Aussie Norman Bennett's Club Nautico is the original cruiser hangout in Cartagena, but ever since Norman - rightly or wrongly - became the guest of the government about a year ago, things have gotten a little rundown. Club Nautico's restaurant and bar are still going strong, however, and cruisers continue to pay their bill at the end of the week.
Juana Perea and Larry Hacker, two nice young folks, have opened up The Verge Sailing Services at the end of Club Nautico. They will check you in, send faxes, send and receive emails, and answer just about any question you might have. The enthusiastic duo are a great addition to the cruising community.
It's possible to anchor off Club Nautico, but there are two disadvantages. For one thing, ferries like to speed past, and sometimes at night dark forms in dugout canoes like to check things out. To our knowledge, however, nothing has ever been taken.
There is a walkway along the water between the Club Nautico and the Club de Pesca, and many Colombian families stroll along it each evening. The Club de Pesca is located at the end of the walkway in El Pastelillo, an old fort. Until recently they didn't want visiting boats, but since some slips have become available they've put out the welcome mat.
Club de Pesca's marina is in much better shape than the one at Club Nautico, and they have 24 hour security. If you need work on your boat, you'll find plenty of eager hands. The going rate is $15 U.S. per day. Club de Pesca has a fuel dock and a restaurant.
Both boat clubs are located on Manga, which is an island across from the walled city. There are two grocery stores, Magali Paris and Carulla, which have almost everything a cruiser could need. Both bake fresh bread daily, and serve very reasonably-priced hot lunches. There are several banks in the neighborhood, and you can use your debit cards in the ATMs just like back in the States. The neighborhood also has a few small restaurants where you can eat barbecued chicken or pizza for about $3.00. While most of Colombia is very dangerous, it's safe to walk around here at night, and in the winter when everybody hangs out lights - we've never seen so many - it's like a fairy land.
The old walled city of Cartagena is a magnificent place for strolling. There are many buildings that have flowers cascading down from balconies. Several of the plazas have restaurants, and at night they are crowded with people filled with music. The excellent food is reasonably priced, and it's easy to find something to suit everyone's taste: French, Italian, Colombian, pizza and even sushi. Most have outdoor seating around a courtyard.
During December there were many events at the restored El Teatro Heredia, which is said to be an imitation of many of the famous European theaters. We attended the ballet and a piano concert there. One of the most popular things to do is have Sunday brunch at the Santa Clara Hotel. This hotel is located in an old convent, and for $12,50 U.S. you have an out-of-the-world gourmet selection of cold salads, hot entrees and desserts. Many cruisers celebrated the first day of 2000 by attending their New Years Day brunch. Sixteen of us also enjoyed a very special Christmas Eve dinner at the Santa Clara.
There are several Internet cafes in the old town, and they typically charge $3 an hour. One of the more innovative ones is run by a German who also provides washing machines and sells German black bread and cheeses. So all at once you can do your wash, surf the web, and enjoy bread and cheese. Old town is also home to Vivero, a big discount store that sells food, clothing and linens at very reasonable prices. Thanks to all of the lights and banners at Christmas time, old town becomes a very festive place.
If you tire of the old city, you can also go to Boca Grande - which is a peninsula just to the south of the city. This is where most of the high rise hotels and apartments are located, and most of them are relatively new. It's also home to the upscale shops and larger grocery stores. It's only a $2 U.S,. ride from the Manga.
Lee Miles, an American who has been in Colombia for many years, is the unofficial spokesman for Cartagena. He also owns the Perino Gallo shopping complex in Boca Grande, which is where the cruise ship passengers are taken to shop. You're not going to find any bargains there when a cruise ship is in port. Miles is a sailor who keeps his boat at the Club de Pesca, and he loves to talk about Cartagena and encourage people to visit. Cartagena is the first place we've ever been where people have thanked us for visiting - and asked us to return.
Colombia is home to 99% of the world's emeralds, so you can imagine all the shopkeepers interested in selling you a stone. Miles was very helpful in explaining what to look for - which is a good thing, because almost every cruiser we know of bought one. It doesn't make sense to wear them on the boat, of course, so they sit in a box.
Another local attraction is the nearby Rosario Islands. Lots of people spend time out there, for unlike the beaches at Cartagena, the water is clear and one of the islands is a natural aquarium. Many of the islands are no larger than the house that takes up the entire island!
We're now in the San Blas Islands, and are thoroughly enjoying the Kuna Indians and their lifestyle. But we sure hope other cruisers will stop by Cartagena coming to or from the San Blas. They won't be disappointed!
- peter & nancy 3/00
Peter & Nancy - Back when Big O was anchored off Club Nautico a couple of years ago, there were lots of locals with sticky fingers. One of the crew took the dinghy back to the boat for five minutes to change his pants. When he came back on deck the dinghy and outboard were gone!
We nonetheless really enjoyed Cartagena. For those who don't know, Cartagena has long been considered to be a 'safe city' by all the warring factions. Go outside the city - particularly at night - and you're risking your life. This is particularly true now, as the rest of Colombia has recently descended into near chaos.
[Editor's note: We were forwarded the following information last fall, but hoped to get more details and further information before running it. But we never got it. We're running it at this time to remind everyone that it's indeed possible to get into trouble at sea - and with luck be rescued - when sailing on the big ocean.]
Lenore and I were about 200 miles out of Noumea, New Caledonia, bound for Australia when we got into a low that had formed to the south. We progressively reduced sail on Puffin as the wind built to 50 knots and the seas to 25 feet. There was so much scud that it looked as though there were a thick layer of fog about a foot off the surface of the water!
With just our storm jib set, we were making about a half knot to weather, just trying to keep the bow feathering into the seas. It was uncomfortable, of course, but we were doing all right. Since the low was forecast to move in an easterly direction, our plan was to just sit it out. We later learned that the low remained stationary, which is why we had 50-knot winds for eight hours.
At about 0400 the next morning, one particular wave felt different - and we took a very bad knockdown. I initially thought that we'd rolled 360 degrees, but I don't think we went quite that far. Nonetheless, the inside of the boat looked as though a tornado had blown through. In addition, we lost everything that had been in the cockpit. The 100% jib that we'd lashed to the lifeline must have filled with water during the knockdown, because the lifeline and a stanchion had torn out.
When I went to adjust the steering and the storm jib - which was hanked on and set well above the deck so it wouldn't be damaged in a knockdown - the helm seemed funny. Worse still, the tiller was tilted off to one side - and it felt as though something was wrong with the rudder. When I tried to move the tiller, I think the lower part of the rudder broke loose. In any event, the tiller no longer had any effect on the direction of the boat.
Just then Lenore started yelling that we were taking on water. I turned on the 500/gph pump - which was just able to keep up with the inflow - and we started to look for leaks. We discovered that water was coming in from both forward and aft. We couldn't do much about the forward leak because it was beneath a partition. We're not sure if the leak had been caused by hitting something or by the hull slamming down off the back of a wave. It had been like being in a car accident: it happened so fast we're not really sure of anything.
The leak aft - where the rudder post came through the hull - was worse than the one up forward. It would have been difficult to get to even in the calm waters of a marina - and only then if all the lockers had been emptied. So all we could do to save the boat was pump the water out.
During the next 12 hours, we suffered three more major knockdowns, although none was as severe as the first. By daybreak, we had another 500/gpm pump set up to try to keep up with the inflow of water. But whenever the boat was stressed by a wave, the leaking increased. Our plan was to keep the boat afloat long enough to use the storm jib to propel and steer us 125 miles back to New Caledonia. When and if we got there, we'd worry about how we were going to find our way through one of the many passes in the reef.
Unfortunately, by noon it had become obvious that the leaks were worsening and that Puffin wasn't going to be able to carry us to safety. Having run out of options, I activated our EPIRB. From then on, Lenore and I took turns with the manual pump and issued Mayday calls every 30 minutes.
Nine hours later - about 9 p.m. - a military helicopter appeared above us. We didn't have a radio, so we couldn't communicate with them. We fired a rocket flare to let them know it was our boat they were looking for. They pointed a spotlight off to the side of Puffin, so we climbed into our already inflated dinghy and abandoned ship. We later found out that the helicopter had only wanted to drop a liferaft, not to rescue us! Their plan was for a freighter to pick us up the next day. I wish we would have known, because we probably could have saved a lot of our expensive stuff and irreplaceable sentimental items.
As we drifted downwind from our boat, the helicopter crew had no choice but to rescue us. A diver was lowered down. He put a sling around Lenore, and the two of them were hauled up to the helicopter. After the procedure was repeated with me, we were taken back to Noumea. We can't tell you how wonderful everyone was in Noumea - particularly the crew that saved us. They were not only great during the rescue, but later on, too. I never thought we'd make so many friends with people in the military, but we did.
Ironically, a few hours after our rescue, the French and Australians were to sign an accord dealing with safety and rescues at sea. As a result, we spent many hours with officials from the army, navy, air force - and also the Australian consulate. They all wanted to know how the operation went with us, and what could be done to improve it.
The Australian consulate was also a great help once they learned that we had funds and wouldn't be a burden on them. The Consul General lent Lenore clothing and provided us with many bottles of Australian wine for a dinner with the crew that rescued us. There was just so much kindness from everyone.
We want everyone to know that we're fine and that we'll bounce back. I'll probably head back to San Diego before long and stay with my son while I look for another fixer-upper boat. This time one with a radio. Then Lenore will join me to do whatever we have to do to make the same voyage to Australia again.
- terry 10/99
For as long as we can remember, most cruisers travelling between Mexico and Costa Rica avoided El Salvador like the plague. The memory of a horribly bloodthirsty civil war was still too vivid. But it turns out that the tiny Central American country now has two new and very nice facilities designed at least in part to welcome cruisers! One is at Bahia del Sol, the other is the Barillas Marina Club. They are located about one mile and six miles inland respectively, from the Bahia de Jiquilisco, at a distance of approximately 60 and 30 miles north of the Gulf of Fonseca. The Barillas Marina Club, which was dedicated at the end of February by El Salvador's President is the more complete of the two. It has excellent new haul-out facilities and dry storage, staff that are experienced in engine, refrigeration and detail work, and unlimited fuel and potable water. Like Bahia del Sol, its mooring buoys are free!
Jim and Nancy Tracey of the San Francisco-based Hunter 430 Legend Windance broke the exciting story to us a few months ago, but at the time we didn't have any photos to support it. Now we've got the photos, but don't have editorial space until next month. But you'll want to read their story, as it now means there are two very nice and secure bases in the heart of Central America from which to explore El Salvador - as well as Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, all of which are only a few miles away. In our opinion, this is a major development that will change the way cruisers view the Pacific Coast of Central America.
Further down the coast at Panama, the news is less encouraging. There are lots of cruising boats transiting the Canal at this time of year, but there have been more delays than ever. While the delays a month ago might have been caused by Canal Advisors being more interested in Carnival than work, there is now a more fundamental problem. David Wilson explains:
"The Advisors were mostly Pilots in Training (PITs) and members of the Pilot Understudy Program (PUPs) - and occasionally Tug Captain trainees. The problem is that for now at least, the Canal is not training any new pilots! They've been using a few tug mates to fill in as Advisors. Tug mates make great Advisors as they are pretty relaxed and competent, and seem to have a good understanding of small boats. In fact, there are fewer accidents than ever involving yachts - although on March 15 the Contessa 37 Bluenose suffered $20,000 worth of damage after a stern line was apparently not secured in time. But if the delays are going to be eliminated, the Canal is going to have to train more pilots."
On a little bit brighter side, our sources in Panama say they are expecting some good news regarding the burned down Balboa YC. But nothing certain yet.
"Latitude is a great source for staying in touch with old cruising friends," writes Phyllis Neumann of the Penngrove (California) and North Palm Beach (Florida) based Perry 47 Adventure. "So I think it would be great if Latitude would periodically post a list of cruiser email addresses and/or cruiser websites. Even though Bob and I have been out cruising for seven years now, we still love to visit the websites of other cruisers and follow their adventures. These sites are great ways to stay in touch and pass on cruising information. So if anybody wants to contact us - including old cruising friends Roland and Janie Gibson of Hot Ice, who inquired about us last month - we'd love to hear from you .
It sounds like a good idea to us, so if any cruisers want to give out their email and website addresses, send them to and we'll see if we can't publish a list of them every several months and/or post them on our website. Just make sure you always include your boat's name, boat type, skipper's name, and hailing port.
By the way, we spoke with Phyllis over the phone, and she told us that she and Bob enjoyed their first four years of cruising - between Mexico and the San Blas Islands - the best of all. The primary reason was the great cruising community. While the Nuemanns like the East Coast and the Bahamas, they and other cruisers feel much more isolated back there. "People do lots of weekend sailing on the East Coast, but there's not the same sort of cruising community as on the West Coast," says Phyllis.
"As you know, in early April there was a serious piracy incident at the Media Luna Cays, Honduras," Bill and Soon Gloege of the San Jose-based Morgan 38 Gaia write from the San Blas Islands. "A European family's unattended boat was boarded, and the father and son were fired on with AK-47s as they returned to the boat. The son was hit and subsequently lost a kidney and is paralyzed from the waist down. There are many cruisers in the Western Caribbean who are concerned about this and other recent incidents reported on radio nets. Another one involved a French family anchored near Cartegena. Their boat was boarded by armed men, and they were robbed of most of their valuables. Do you have any information on Honduran, Colombian, or United States Coast Guard reactions and countermeasures to protect the many Americans and Europeans cruising this area?"
The unfortunate truth, Bill and Soon, is neither the local governments nor the U.S. Coast Guard can do anything to stop that kind of activity. We taxpayers have been pumping billions of dollars a year into the Caribbean Basin to try to cut off the flow of drugs - without even making a dent. When and where they want, the bad guys rule. But the good news is that serious incidents are quite rare. The last really violent one we can remember was the sadistic murder of two Brits and two Americans aboard Computer Center Challenger while the big Swan was anchored off Barbuda about three years ago. The perpetrators were recently hung in Antigua.
The best steps you can take to protect yourself are to listen to the various nets to keep track of where theft, violent crime and murder most commonly occur - and avoid those areas. Just outside of Cartagena, nearly all of the Venezuelan mainland, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have historically been among the most dangerous areas. In addition, it's always safer to cruise and/or anchor in the company of at least two or three other boats. As terrible as this incident was, we think cruisers have a much greater chance of being robbed or murdered in a big city - such as Miami. But no matter where you go, please be careful!
As we in Northern California start getting the pleasant weather of summer, Auckland - which is close to 38º South - starts getting the cold and wet of winter. As such, many of the cruisers who stayed over for summer, as well as locals looking for tropical fun, head north to the South Pacific. There are several organized events to promote this goal, including the 1,200-mile Auckland to Savu Savu, Fiji Race that starts on May 27. This event is somewhat similar to the West Marine Pacific Cup to Hawaii, as it draws a combination of hot racing boats and cruising boats for the sail to a tropical destination. About 25 entries are expected to pony up the $250 U.S. entry fee for the race/rally, including three from the United States. The three American boats are: Tim Modders and Cynthia Wilkes' San Francisco-based Beneteau 50 Total Devotion; Tom and Pam Howell's Lake Tahoe-based Farr 58 Imagine, which many folks remember from several seasons in Mexico; and George Backhus' Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow. The event is sponsored by the Royal Arakana YC, and features lots of prizes - and maybe even some cold, hard cash. Prizes are nothing new when it comes to Kiwi sailboat racing. As Cate Duigan, Backhus' Kiwi ladyfriend, puts it, "What's the point of racing if there's no prize?" Another Kiwi outfit sponsors cruising rallies up to Minerva Reef, Tonga and Fiji.
"We departed Puerto Rico on March 27 - and 117 hours later we were anchored in 'The Flats' just off Cristobal, Panama," report Dean Daniels and Chris Kingery of the Catana 43 catamaran Thanks Larry! Latitude readers may recall that the former Oracle employees purchased their catamaran new in France last summer, enjoyed sailing her around the Med, across the Atlantic, and in the Caribbean for two months before taking off for Panama.
"The trip was a good example of the pleasures of cruising aboard a large and fast catamaran," they write, "as we averaged 8.6 knots over the 1,005 nautical mile route, motoring for only the first and last two hours of the trip. Our fastest 24 hours was 227 nautical miles. Winds from the east blew at between 15 and 30 knots for the entire voyage. The first two nights we sailed under an asymmetrical spinnaker and main, then we made the horribly noisy mistake of trying to sail wing on wing with a main and a jib for one night. The last two nights we ran dead downwind under a symmetrical spinnaker only. We were a little hesistant to put up the 3/4 oz. kite in more than 25 knots of wind, but without the main to collapse behind, it rarely experienced any shock-loads. The fact that Thanks Larry surfed up to 18 knots didn't hurt. Our next sail will be a somewhat smaller 1.5 oz spinnaker that we can comfortably fly in 30 knots wind. Because we like the spinnaker only configuration for night sailing, we're going to make it half green and half red."
Having already married one couple onboard - while sailing under spinnaker, no less - Dean and Chris are currently on their way to Costa Rica, Hawaii, and back to San Francisco. For those interested in realistic catamaran cruising speeds, notice how Dean and Chris' performance report is very similar to Blair Grinols' in this month's Letters. None of that 'averaged 15 knots' rubbish. And they both own cats that are on the high end of the performance spectrum.
Steve and Linda Dashew sailed and motorsailed their 84-ft Beowulf IV from Panama to Aruba in February. That's perhaps the worst month of the year to attempt that often difficult passage, and they got pasted with 40 to 45 knot winds and big, square seas. "It's much worse than the passage from Southern California to Northern California," was their verdict.
"There were a total of nine robbery-assaults committed against tourists in La Paz between March 28 and April 14," reports J. Hughes from Baja. "One, a real mugging, was committed against Connie Hinton while she was returning to the Don Jose Abaroa Marina. The others were against tourists on the bayfront street in the downtown area between Carlos & Charlie's and Las Brisas restaurants. Two of the people assaulted and robbed were from the Sea Lyon, a small cruise ship. The girl was severely beaten because she fought back in the belief she was going to be raped."
Hughes further claims, "It's not uncommon for cops to confront you when you're leaving a bar or restaurant, demand identification, then proceed to take all of your money. If you resist or try to get their identification number, you're given a severe beating and thrown in jail. Another form of harassment is the ticketing of all foreign vehicles - especially easily identifiable rental cars. The attitudes against 'rich gringos' are getting worse down here, and the local Tourist Office won't do anything about it."
While we don't doubt Hughes' crime statistics, we're a little skeptical about his other claims. For one thing, nobody else has reported in increase in shakedowns and other police abuse in La Paz. Second, there is 'skepticism by association', as Hughes makes the ridiculous claim that the cost of living in La Paz is now higher than in the United States. Who has he been talking to, the guy in La Paz who claimed the New Zealand boycott cost the Kiwis $600 million? Furthermore, some person or persons have been engaged in a lively smear campaign - exclusively via fax - against everything about La Paz. Hughes' missive also came by fax, a form of communication we rarely see anymore. It's good to be careful when walking alone at night anywhere in the world, particularly in areas where there are popular nightspots and a great disparity of wealth. Nonetheless, we wouldn't hesitate to be enjoying life in La Paz.
In any event, two of the biggest recent trends in Mexico give some reason for hope: 1) In the mid-90s, the birth rate in Mexico dropped from six children per mother to just three children. Second, a much more stable economy has resulted in more and better paying jobs. In some manufacturing sectors, women are making almost as much money as their husbands and sons who take illegal jobs in the United States.
"SailMail is the greatest way for cruisers to communicate," advises one cruiser in southern Mexico who would prefer to remain anonymous. "It usually takes less than 24 hours - and sometimes less than six - for us to get responses from home. When we used to make phone calls, they were expensive and we'd often get answering machines and be unable to get responses for days. Yesterday I sent some text and photographs to Latitude from an Internet Cafe in Z-town - and found out it took more time to send the same size document than with SailMail! Slow internet connections are the norm here in Mexico. The only drawback to SailMail is that 'message rush hour' is like the freeway rush hour back home: it takes three times as long to get the job done. While commuters are stuck, we cruisers have an alternative - enjoy a cerveza while waiting for the rush hour to finish.
This cruiser reports that from Z-town he's had much better luck accessing the SailMail station in South Carolina than the one in Palo Alto. In any event, he's so pleased with the system that he says he might be willing to help fund another one. So we contacted Stan Honey for the latest with SailMail. Here's what he said:
"We just opened our third station in New South Wales, Australia, which means SailMail now covers most of the Pacific Ocean. Previously, the Palo Alto station worked all the way to New Zealand, but no further. The new Australian station means we now cover all the Western Pacific as well as the Indian Ocean. If we're not careful, we'll soon be covering the entire world.
"The South Carolina station, which was our second, turned out to offer very good coverage in Mexico - which is where the majority of SailMail traffic comes and goes from. Before the South Carolina proved so useful in Mexico, we assumed that our next station would be in San Diego to better serve Mexico. But now it looks as though the next station would be better located in Hawaii, as it would mean we'd have three stations serving Mexico. All that's holding this up is permission from the F.C.C.
"The SailMail situation out of Mexico has much improved in the last year. First, we added the coverage from the South Carolina station, which really helped. Secondly, we realized that not everyone understood the party line, and as a result a couple of individuals were tying a station up for hours at a time. We now have connect time limits. If someone goes over the recommended 10-minutes a day maximim for a week, they start getting warnings. If it continues, they get cut off until they're back down to their 10-minute a day average. Users need to understand the importance of their equipment, too. If they're not using a SCS Pactor II modem, the messages are taking five times as long as they should. Having a good radio, such as an Icom 700 Pro or 710, with a good ground also makes a big difference."
Getting the dirt on radar. When Profligate was about to leave mainland Mexico for California, the radar started to act up. A check of the manual indicated that about the only owner maintenance possible is cleaning off the front of the radar dome. After this was done, the radar started functioning perfectly again. If only all marine repairs were so simple!
A Latitude salute to Joe Parks of the Seattle-based Fast Passage 39 Maverick, and Bill Berg of the Seattle-based Hudson 50 Golden Ring. When they learned that Dick Mundy of the Ventura-based Freedom 40 Fantasy had suffered an aneurysm in Barra de Navidad, they volunteered to deliver his and his wife Pat's boat back to Ventura. As we all know, it's a nasty slog up the coast. The duo report they had a typical Baja bash: 10 days from Mazatlan to San Diego. In fact, Parks said the time was actually pretty good, as last year it took him 10 days to bring his own boat from just Cabo to San Diego. "We had average conditions this year: 15 to 18 knots in the afternoon, with six to eight foot square waves - which made it really bouncy and rolly. At night it would quiet down a little. Oddly enough, the worst part of the whole trip was off Isla Isabella before even starting the bash, when it blew 25 knots on the nose."
Parks and Berg left Cabo at the same time as Gary, a singlehander aboard the Islander 36 Isis. While the duo stayed about 20 miles offshore, Gary stayed within about 1,500 yards of the beach. Since he reached Mag Bay at the same time with a smaller boat, they figure he had a better way to go.
By the way, Berg takes issue with yacht broker Chris Borden, who in the last issue criticized the 'Garden 50' design for, among other things, "not being able to tack even with the engine on." Berg and his wife have owned and lived aboard their Hudson 50 - a slight variation of the design - for the last 16 years, up in Washington and down in Mexico. And Berg, who had owned a long line of sailboats before the Hudson, says Borden doesn't know what he's talking about. He says that Golden Ring sails well, is easy for just he and his wife to handle, is well built in many respects, and has plenty of interior room. He also notes that "displacement equals comfort on the ocean." So there!
A number of sailors seem to be trying the old offshore clipper
ship route to return from Mexico to California this season. Tony
Clarke in the Ocean 71 Second Life was first, and reports it
took him 13 days from Clarion Island. Other than getting clobbered
off Point Conception, it was a good trip.
IIf you bash back up the coast or by the clipper route, we'd love to hear how it went. Heck, no matter what you're doing out there, we'd still like to hear from you.