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May 2013

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With reports this month from Hotel California, Too, sailing much more than motoring in the Caribbean; from X dealing with torn old sails in the Philippines; from Medusa on a gal's getting attacked on the beach in Costa Rica; from Heroina on a grand entrance to the Caribbean; from Carina taking a breather in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia; and Cruise Notes.

Hotel California, Too
Steve Schmidt
Santa Cruz Style Cruising
(ex-Saratoga / St. Thomas)

In this month's Letters, William Coverdale writes about the joys of having owned and sailed his Olson 30 Killer Rabbit since the late '70s, and having only used about 10 gallons of fuel in all that time. If you think that sounds like a bunch of baloney, then maybe you don't understand ultralight boats.

We recently did three of the four Voiles de St. Barth races on Steve Schmidt's Santa Cruz 70 Hotel California, Too, the only cruising version of that design ever built. Unlike the racing versions of the boat, she's got a shorter mast, longer boom, fewer winches and sails — and her inflatable dinghy is dragged up on her massive 'back porch'.

But like the other SC70s, Hotel California, Too goes through the water easily. While fooling around near the starting line before the start of some races, she'd effortlessly reach along at nearly 10 knots under main alone.

Schmidt, who lived in Saratoga until taking delivery of the boat in 1991, has been cruising her in the Caribbean since about 1995. He tells us that he only uses the boat's engine for propulsion about 4% of the time. The rest of the time, he gets around under sail.

Sound like a bunch of baloney? Well, there was a two-year period when the boat's transmission was broken. Instead of getting it fixed right away, Schmidt used his engine as a genset, and sailed the 70-footer when he wanted to go anywhere. That included sailing her in many races.

That brings up another startling statistic. Before leaving California, Schmidt hadn't been into racing. In fact, he really only got into it after arriving in the Caribbean, and mostly "for the social aspects". But once he started racing, it almost seems as if he hasn't been able to stop.

"I don't race quite as much as I used to," he told Latitude, "but for the first 10 years in the Caribbean, I raced an average of about 60 days a year. I'd do every fun regatta there was. More recently, I've been doing about 50 races a year. So I think it's safe to say that I've done over 500 races, although I'm not keeping count and the total isn't important to me."

He's done about 30 of them singlehanded.

What makes this kind of funny is that Bill Lee, the designer and builder of the Santa Cruz boats, wasn't keen on selling Schmidt a 70 in the first place. After all, the boat was a TransPac and Mexico screamer, and Lee hardly wanted a bastardized version of the boat dogging it on race courses. "I'm only going to sell you the boat," Lee told Schmidt, "if you promise me that you'll never race her."

— latitude/rs 04/15/13

X — Santa Cruz 50
David Addleman
No Thrilla South of Manila

My Filipina girlfriend Shayne and I entered my SC50 in the Puerto Galera YC's Easter Regatta, an annual three-day cruiser event that takes place about 75 miles south of Manila on the island of Mindoro. We took the opportunity to strip yet more of the cumbersome cruising modifications from X. Without the bimini, dodger, anchor gear, solar panels and all manner of other cruiser clutter, X at last has the fast look Bill Lee intended for the Santa Cruz 50.

Unfortunately, my boat's years of cruising have reduced her sail wardrobe to a single fragile set. And the remaining sails were far too lightweight for the blustery conditions found on the Verde Channel Race course. For instance, a test outing reduced a fancy laminate mainsail to shreds, shreds that were last seen blowing toward Vietnam. Then we shredded an old spinnaker in the first race.

We abandoned the second race because it was too windy. After anchoring near the finish line and preparing cocktails, we watched the other boats get pounded.

I had expected the easy light-wind racing of the type normally found on Banderas Bay, not the heavy winds more common in the The Slot on San Francisco Bay. The regatta consisted of three fun pursuit races over three days. Seventeen boats entered. I didn't ask, but I'm pretty sure we came in last.

Nonetheless, we had recruited a fine crew. We had Bill Moore, an expat from West Coast racing, for local knowledge. Kathy and Jerry McGraw of the Newport Beach-based Peterson 44 Po' oino Roa were also handy crew. The veterans of the '04 Ha-Ha and the '06 Puddle Jump had just arrived in the Philippines from Thailand — and asked me to apologize to the Grand Poobah for having not sent a cruising update "in years".

One sailor whose boat actually enjoyed the challenging conditions was Gary Pione of the Honolulu YC. I'd met him cruising two years before in Palau. He placed well with Anthea, a classic Camper & Nicholson 8-Meter that had been built in 1929. Hank Easom would love her.

Puerto Galera is truly the center of yachting in the Philippines. While there are significant sailing activities around Manila and Subic Bay, the best venue, conditions and sailing spirit are to be found here at Puerto Galera.

But last month we traveled about 100 miles north to get a bottom job at Watercraft Enterprises in Subic Bay. We'd heard plenty of scary stories about the experiences other cruisers had had there, so we were extra careful with our communications, got a firm price quote — and received good and honest service. Although the work proceeded at a slower pace than we expected, it was of excellent quality. They have a Marine Travelift for boats to 70 tons, 70 feet long, 18 feet of beam and 17 feet of draft. Larger yachts need to use the nearby drydocks.

We have enjoyed living under sparkling blue skies with no rain for five months, but a change in the seasons is imminent. Soon we will have a parade of thunderstorms and typhoons. So we have secured a recently inspected typhoon-proof mooring from the yacht club. Hopefully there will still be time for a few weeks of good-weather cruising to the nearby islands before the weather turns.

Life is mostly fabulous.

— david 04/10/13

Medusa — Columbia 23
Naomi Crum
Wild Times In Central America
(Santa Barbara / New Zealand)

The following is a letter I wrote to my parents in New Zealand. You probably remember them, as our New Zealand-based family — dad Bob, mom Jennie, brother Malcom, and I — did the 1996 Ha-Ha aboard Gumboot, our CF 37. I was nine years old at the time and my brother was 10. As some Latitude readers may remember, I started my current cruise from San Felipe, northern Baja. I made it as far south as El Salvador last summer, where I put my little boat in a paddock. I returned to Medusa in mid-December, and have been having various sailing, surfing and social adventures since then, but got bogged down in Nicaragua because of a bad turnbuckle. Anyway, here's the letter:

"Whee, the good times are back! But we had to go through some bad times to get here. First, there was all that waiting around in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, having to listen to Gangnam Style, good lord — while waiting for a replacement turnbuckle. I had one good turnbuckle, so after waiting around forever, I decided to make the 45-minute bus ride to Rivas to get a new one made. We wandered around town for awhile, found a freakin' machine shop, and said, 'Make a new one of these.' I picked it up the next day. 'Yay, I have a new turnbuckle!' While in Rivas, we bought lots of groceries. Food is a lot less expensive in Nicaragua than in Costa Rica.

"When we got back to the boat, we tried the new turnbuckle — and it didn't fit! Yearrhghg! So I decided that I'd just put the old turnbuckle back on. But now that didn't fit either. I tried so hard to make it fit — which is not the right thing to do with threaded parts — that part of the shroud snapped off inside the turnbuckle! I was ready to cry for real, you guys, because now we had no turnbuckles! And it seemed as though we might never get out of Nicaragua.

"Things were really shitty, but 'Uncle' Dale Dagger came to the rescue! A real turnbuckle, which we’ve been waiting for like five weeks to arrive from the States, was ready to be picked up in Managua! Uncle Dale is so generous, as he chucked me into a taxi for the two-hour ride to Managua and the two-hour ride back. But I got my turnbuckle — as well as a bag of mangoes and some cheese from northern Nicaragua.

"The new turnbuckle worked. Yah! Then a fella on a charter sailboat in San Juan told me about a machine shop in town that could fix our old turnbuckle. Before and after seeing Immigration, I visited the machine shop dude. Guess what? He fixed the turnbuckle up good, getting that chunk of shroud out. And he fixed the threads. He also offered to crew on my boat. Thanks, machine dude!

"While in San Juan, we also picked up a new crewmember — Good Good Rae Rae from Oregon. Who knows how long it will work, but I now had a boatload of three girls, myself included. We're unstoppable! And we would later have to prove it on a dark night on a beach in Costa Rica.

"We took care of the paperwork bladoodle, got out of San Juan that afternoon, and had a fantastic sail down the coast of La Flor. We even sailed onto the anchor like we love to do. Then we ate some oranges in a real skillful way. We got three-quarters of the orange out of the oranges, then filled them back up with cake batter that Mikaela, my other crew, had whipped up. Then we wrapped them in tinfoil. We put some potatoes in some other foil, grabbed some red wine, then piled into the dinghy and headed to shore for a beach party. We had a scary landing, but we survived.

"If you guys ever get near a fire, try filling orange peels with cake mix and cooking them on the fire. It tastes pretty good.

"The next day we had a decent sail up — or maybe it was down — to Bahia Salina with a reefed main and a working jib. We always reef the main in Papagayos, and sometimes drop the jib, too. We kind of hunkered down there for a day or two, dug up some clams on the beach, and had a mean feed of them.

"When the wind finally died down enough for us to be able to haul up the anchor, we had a great downwind sail to the little town of Jinquillal. Some nice people let us fill our water jugs from their garden hose — yeah, tap water is totally potable in Costa Rica. Later we strolled into town to check the weather on the net and buy some tomatoes, cookies and more veggies.

"It was tricky hauling up the anchor the next day, as we don't have a windlass or any fancy bits like that. In fact, ever since the Gulf of Fonseca we haven't even had a measly winch handle on the boat. We just haul the anchor up from the stern — so we can use the winch — and just coil the rode directly into the anchor basket we keep on the stern. There's no place for it on the bow anyway. Sometimes it's hard pulling Medusa ass first into the wind, but we've managed.

"We had to take care of a few lines or something, so we got blown out of the bay at three knots with no sail up. Gnarly. We got the working jib up — nothing else — and started hurtling downwind at seven knots! Dudes, seven knots! Medusa was lovin' it!

"We shared Bahia Santa Elena with another boat — Viandante — which also had young peeps. Yay, we had so much fun with them, doing a little snorkeling mish, chowing down on the biggest sierra I've ever seen — which they caught from their dinghy — and other stuff. Michaela and I then hiked up the the waterfall to clean our dirty laundry, wash our hair, and fill up the water containers. Oh man, we also went snorkeling and a spotted eagle ray was just chilling out a few feet away from me. It made me feel like putting my spear gun between him and me. They are beautiful, but they've got those killer tails, you know.

"Anyway, we left at 4:30 a.m., at the same time as our buddies on Viandante — we wanted company and support — to move before the wind really came up. We were both worried about Cabo Santa Elena, as word on the street was it can be twice as windy as everywhere else! Mellow papagayo winds are like 25 knots, so does that mean it’s like 50 knots on a mellow day at Santa Elena? Argh.

"So, safety in numbers, we chugged out of Bahia Santa Elena and put up the regular canvas, being the reefed main — haven't shaken the reef out in months — and working jib. Man, Viandante kicked our little butts, as a 37-ft boat should, but we assumed the wind was gonna kick up pretty soon, and we’re too lazy to do a sail change up to the big jib, so we didn't move too fast. Plus we didn't want to shake out the reef as it had kinda gotten a groove after being in so long.

"Oh man, we got pretty close to Cabo Santa Elena and started to commune with some whales. They were doing their thing — eating, I guess. When you get pretty close to them, it's like, "Hmmm, they are pretty big. Actually they’re really big. I don’t believe how big they are!!!" Anyway, we had light and fluky winds like we hadn't had since Mexico.

"In conclusion, we have two turnbuckles, which I'm constantly admiring. We’ve had a week of great sails and great times, and all those great things we’ve been missing for the last 2.5 months when we were stuck in Nicaragua. I’m stoked again, I just need to get up to Potrero Grande and maybe Witch's Rock to get my surfing stokage back up to maximum levels!

"Oh, I've got two bits of news you're gonna hate. First, a page of the log book blew off the boat and landed in the water. By the time I realized what it was, it was too late to rescue. It was the log from when I was in Huatulco until we arrived in El Salvador. Buuummmmed. But not the end of the world.

"Okay, the other bad news is my camera got stolen at Playa del Cocos, Costa Rica. I don't want you guys to worry and all that, but as we were strolling back to the dinghy at 9 p.m. last night — we'd been on the Internet a long time — we got jumped by a couple of dudes on the beach. One of 'em took off with the dry bag Michaela was carrying, which had Rae Rae's iPod and iPhone, Michaela's iPod, and my camera — all of which we'd taken to shore to charge up. I fought my dude off, which was good, because I had all the veggies in my bag for our mean fish stew. Plus I'd just gotten about $400 U.S. from the bank. I had my credit card, too.

"Bastards! We three girls all screamed bloody murder, and Rae Rae's shining her super bright flashlight on one guy seemed to scare him. Michaela chased her dude down the beach like a beast, but I was screaming, and she was scared for me, so she stopped. I think I'd already won the fight with my attacker by then, though, and was just screaming at the dude in anger. He'd freaked and run away.

"So yeah, we are super lucky that they weren't more hardcore. I know it's silly to fight for a few hundred bucks, but after a second I realized they were pussy, not very good at thieving, and not into doing serious damage. Plus we'd just bought all those fresh veggies.

"I filed a police report this morning, and we moved to the southern end of the bay. Right now we are beside a massive 50-ft ketch with like six young peeps, and since there's a bar right in front of where we're anchored, the beach won't be so dark and gloomy. And maybe, just like always, we'll get back on the boat before dark!

"Anyway, it wasn't that fun, but I'm over it. It did feel good to scream so hardcore — like you never allowed us to do when I was little. Finally, I was actually in trouble."

That's the end of Naomi's report. Jennie, her mom, filled in 'the rest of the story'.

"I do love the way the girls fought the attackers off when they judged it was a good option. And it's classic that Naomi was really into protecting her veggies! The backstory about the yelling is that I've always hated children screaming for the sake of screaming, so I forbade my kids to do it and always told them to 'save it for when you're really in trouble'. Good girl.

"It even gets better. Or worse. I've just been e-chatting with Naomi, and it seems that she hadn't told me the entire story. She didn't want to worry me, but she actually wrassled a knife off the guy!

"'He made a couple of stabs at me and missed, so I figured he wasn't too good at this kind of thing, and grabbed it off him,' Naomi told me. 'I have a new steak knife now, but it's a very small one.'

"I'm guessing the 'small' size of it is another attempt to stop my worrying. The hair is still standing up on the back of my neck after her telling about the attack, but I'm super proud of the way she handled it. I thought of it today when I read the report about 6'4" Bill Lilly getting robbed on the Lagoon 470 Moontide at Caleta de Campos. He said he felt that because he was big, he could handle the thieves. I'd like to assure people that size doesn't matter. It's attitude. Naomi isn't even 5 feet tall, but I guess can kick shins with the best of them."

— naomi and jennie 03/13/13

Heroina — Frers 74
Tim and Kathy Rutter
Spirit of Tradition Sailing (Texas)

Every winter there are a couple of boats that make a grand entrance onto the sailing scene in the Caribbean. One of this year's boats was the gleaming Frers 74 Heroina. Her arrival was noteworthy because she'd been in the Hinckley Yard and Newport Shipyard in Rhode Island for 3½ months of the winter getting totally glossed out. Valentine's Day is not the ideal time to leave New England for Bermuda and the Caribbean, but with the work done and owners having spent a pretty penny for it, it's only natural they wanted to do some idyllic Caribbean sailing. So sail her to the Caribbean is what the boat's skipper, South African Marius Swart, his Nova Scotian girlfriend Haley Allen, and a delivery crew did. As might be expected, on the way to Bermuda they got whacked with winds to 50 knots and seas to 25 feet. But Heroina handled it well, and after Bermuda it wasn't a bad trip the rest of the way to St. Martin and St. Barth.

Heroina's other grand entrance was at the Voiles de St. Barth, where she won all four races in her division, and usually by very comfortable margins.

She's a happy boat, too. Much of the reason is that owners Tim and Kathy Rutter, and crew Marius and Haley, get along so well. During a break in the Voiles, Tim kept telling us how great it is to have a captain like Marius, and how wonderful Haley is.

Marius thinks just as highly of the Rutters. "He's one of us," Marius says, paying Tim what's close to the ultimate crew compliment. "He wasn't born rich, he earned his money." Tim is as unpretentious as can be, and repeatedly encouraged us to stop by and have a look at the boat.

Heroina is a good gig for Marius, who came to the Caribbean six years ago. He's only been the captain of one other boat, a Swan 60.

There is an unusual backstory to the design and building of Heroina, one that made her more attractive to the Rutters.

Almost every sailor knows that German Frers is a famous Argentinian yacht designer who has drawn many great designs for the likes of Wally and Swan, who has created custom builds like the 139-ft ketch Rebecca, and who has been involved in many America's Cup campaigns. In the early 90s, Frers decided that he wanted to draw a boat for himself. Not wanting to be influenced by anyone at his office, he only worked on the drawings at home.

There are certain advantages to being a big player in the world of big sailing boats. One is that you get to know owners of big boats, and owners of big boats always have containers of spare and discarded parts laying around. So when it came time to decide how long Frers wanted his boat to be, it was dictated to a certain degree by the fact that his old friend Raul Gardini — he of the Il Moro de Venezia America's Cup campaigns — let him have an old mast from one of the Il Moros. The mast height pretty much set the boat length at 74 feet.

Frers also was able to pick up the wing keel from Stars 'n Stripes '87 for little or nothing. Of course, what could be better for sailing on the shallow waters of the River Plate than a wing keel?

Alas, Frers was very busy working on America's Cup boats in the early '90s, so he didn't have as much time as he wanted to draw his own boat. So, at least according to the legend, he gave what he'd done to his son Mani, home on break from college, and told him to finish it. Naturally, there were guidelines — flush deck, simple elegance, open interior — but Mani took it from there. And while we're certain that German carefully checked his son's work, some refer to Heroina as Mani's first design. Mani, by the way, is now a successful naval architect himself.

German had her strip-planked hull built at Astilleros Sarmiento in Buenos Aires. He sailed her a bit in Argentina, but in the 15 years he owned her, she was mostly kept in the Med.

After owning her for a number of years, German got tired of the owner's cabin being aft, what with the kids and their friends trampling over the boat at all hours. So he decided that the owner's cabin would be moved all the way forward, where he wouldn't be bothered. He also decided to make some other changes to the interior. The work was begun with the classic boatyard tool, the chain saw.

"If you look way behind some of the paneling, you can still see a couple of places where there are clear traces of chain sawing," laughs Marius. "It must have been pretty brutal. But they did a great job on the new stuff."

Indeed, the interior as well as the exterior of the Heroina are in perfect condition. From her uncluttered flush decks to her open and uncluttered salon, she's a beautiful yacht.

Tim tells us that he and his wife almost missed out on the opportunity to buy her. They'd been looking all around for a wood boat, but just weren't finding what they were looking for at all. When they saw Heroina, however, it was as if they had found what they were looking for. The problem is that nobody likes to be rushed into an expensive boat purchase, but they were forced to make a decision.

"The situation is that owner Craig McCaw had 49 boats," Tim told us, "and he really wanted to sell this one. So Heroina was about to be loaded onto a ship for delivery to the Med. If we didn't buy her right away, she was off to Europe. We closed the deal in just 19 days."

It was a little scary making such a big move so swiftly, but the Rutters are now delighted that they did it.

"Heroina is a great sailing boat," says Marius. "She displaces 36 tons, so she's not a light boat and doesn't surf, but we went around the Voile course at a pretty steady 9 to 10 knots. And she's like a rock going to weather."

What's with the unusual name? German's great, great, great grandfather was a pirate. His first prize was a French warship named Heroina.

Their having arrived in the Caribbean so late in the season, it was almost time for her to head back to the Northeast again. "We have a very busy cruising and racing schedule, starting with Jamestown," says Marius.

— latitude/rs 04/13/13

Carina — Mason 33
Leslie Linkkila and Philip DiNuovo
Pohnpei Respite
(Kingston, WA)

As we've sailed more than 28,000 miles since leaving Washington in 2003, a lot of people think we must be wrapping up our circumnavigation. On the contrary, we haven't even made it all the way across the Pacific yet. We like to stay in places and get to know them.

We're currently in Pohnpei — one of the Caroline Islands that is part of Pohnpei State, which is one of the four states that make up the Federated States of Micronesia — and in order to get to know it, we'll probably stay here until New Year's 2014. After all, Pohnpei offers us many things we appreciate these days: a safe anchorage deep inside a lagoon that we believe is outside the typhoon zone, friendly locals, interesting cultures, USPS shipping, a U.S.-friendly visa policy and well-stocked stores. The largest 'supermarket' carries everything from crackers to coffins. Yes, coffins. A six-and-a-half footer will set you back $1,395. Too tight? The seven-footer is just $55 more.

We were weary when we first arrived at Pohnpei, for in the prior seven months we'd done two transequatorial passages and explored the Solomon Islands. Although 4,000 miles in seven months isn't much if you make a couple of long passages, we'd been making shorter ones and moved along at a snail's pace. Throw in a life-threatening health crisis, a haulout, and a few major equipment failures, and it seemed like a good idea to rest and renew in Pohnpei while we could.

After arriving in December, we became entwined in the transient cruiser population, participating in events and helping at least one disabled vessel make a safe landfall. We also discovered a large, interesting, international and not-so-transient expat population. Plus we caught up with a few old friends and made many new ones. So with holidays and events, time just slipped by.

Then Leslie learned that the College of Micronesia was short of math/science instructors, so she began teaching in mid-January. Just this week she stepped in to sub for another faculty member who has gone on maternity leave. She is now teaching chemistry, too, which has quadrupled her student contact hours and gotten a few more dormant science synapses firing again. Her weekly pay to date barely feeds Jake, our cat, but she is really enjoying the interaction with the kids. The kids are junior college-aged Micronesians who have many challenges. Among them are that they speak English as their second language, they are painfully shy, and they enter college generally unprepared for the rigors of independent study and advanced subjects.

Meanwhile, Philip is keeping Carina in shape and walking up and down the island's hills, hauling supplies (read food) and laundry, which has left him as fit as he's been in years. We are also — in our spare time — sewing sails and canvas for hire as the need arises, and writing when we can. This week we hope to finalize a deal to buy an immaculate old Mazda Demio, which seems to be in such good shape that we'll be able to recoup our investment by selling it when we leave in roughly nine months. It's slightly scary to think about owning a car after going just shy of 10 years without one, but our Pohnpeian driver's licenses — $6.50 each — are up to date, there is no insurance, and the registration is only about $10.

The Demio has been imported directly from Japan, so the driver station is to starboard despite the fact that traffic drives on the right hand side of the road — as in the United States. Philip has driven right-hand cars before and has had no trouble. But drivers here think they have a God-given right to dominate pedestrians. In fact, they will aim for you if you're in their path — even if you are walking on a sidewalk. Given the natural friendliness, politeness and shyness of most Pohnpeians — when they are not behind the wheel — it's an odd behavior. But it's made it a little hard on Leslie.

Why get a car at all? Leslie has had little luck getting taxis at 7 a.m. for her 8 a.m. labs on the campus — which is down the road "a piece" in the wrong direction, meaning away from town.

Pohnpei is an interesting place. Geologically speaking, it's like the Society Islands and Wallis — the volcanic islands in the center of the lagoon are still high and lush, and the fringing reef has few motus. The lagoon itself is mostly deep right up to large areas of coral, except in and around the port of Kolonia, where the lagoon is silted in. Way inside, SW of Kolonia town, is the anchorage with depths in the 25-ft range, and with a bottom of thick, gooey, black, clay-mud.

Sokehs Island with Sokehs Mountain is to the west, the mountains of Pohnpei to the south, and the low hillside of Kolonia to the east. Hidden in the jungle on the top of Sokehs Mountain are a number of abandoned Japanese gun emplacements that sit in redoubts. A warren of tunnels, overgrown with vines, connect each fortification. The big guns face the encroaching jungle and are, of course, silent. But in fact, they were never fired in anger. World War II action passed Pohnpei by, and the Japanese military left after the surrender.

A mile or so to the north, past the commercial dock and the airport, we can see the surf crashing on the reef. We recently raised our anchor after over two months and, as would be our luck, our washdown pump failed as the worst of the goo cleared the surface. Unable to quickly fix the pump, we finally hauled in the chain, motored to our mooring, and pulled the chain back out of the locker. We spent the remaining hours of the day using brushes to scrub each link in buckets of seawater. If you've ever put a filthy chain — and its marine fauna — in an anchor locker and left it to fester, you'll know why we were anxious to avoid this.

Pohnpei is the capital of the FSM: the Federated States of Micronesia, the entity created when the treaty with the U.S. allowed the Trust Territories of the Pacific to become independent. Palau and the Marshalls decided on autonomy while Yap, Chuuk (nee Truk), Pohnpei and Kosrae became the FSM.

Being the capital of the country, Pohnpei is a medley of cultures from all the states, mixed coarsely with diplomats, NGOs, a bunch of expats from different countries, and the big evangelical churches. But a melting pot it ain't. Every group has its 'burb and church. But it mostly works.

Every place like this has its bad boys, and the Chuukese are the ones who like to stir the pot. They reside on Sokehs Island to our west, which they acquired after the Sokehs Rebellion resulted in exile of those living there at the time. At Christmas they decided to extend the holidays, so all Chuukese took two weeks off and spent most of their time drinking sakau (kava) and alcohol, and pounding on drums made out of barrels.

To our east is the Kapingmarangi clan, which was displaced from their atoll at 01 N by a drought many years ago. This Polynesian clan has feudal chiefs, like Tikopia in the Solomons, and is a tightly knit group. Whistles from their organized sport programs fill the suppertime air, their youth sailing program dinghies cross the bay each weekend, and their daily 6 a.m. bell resounds off the waters of the bay.

The Kapingamarangi wood carvings and weavings are purchased for dear sums by the tourists who arrive on United Airlines, the only passenger carrier. Though the Kapingamarangi men are skilled carvers, they seem most skilled at producing children. Robinson, a Kapingamarangi man who cares for some boats owned by local businessmen, told us that of the 500 or so residents of the village, 400 are children! He is caring for eleven, many more than he has sired, since his wife keeps adopting needy children. When we have 'excess' food, we try to send it Robinson's way.

On shore to our south is the Pohnpei Marina, still under construction by Kumer and Antonia Panuelo. Kumer is part of the powerful Panuelo clan that owns most of the land on the south end of the bay. Despite his family ties, Kumer is a self-made man. Both he and Antonia went to university in the United States. They have high standards for themselves, their projects, their children and their workers. They are ambitious, but they are also so kind and generous it seems impossible to 'outgive' them. They just will not allow it.

Without Kumer's local knowledge and skill — and his boat with 400-hp of power — the engineless sailing vessel Zephyr may well have wrecked on the reef at Sokeh's Pass when the wind suddenly died. Kumer towed Zephyr though Pohnpei's pass and into the bay, where yachtie dinghies took over and tugboated Zephyr into the tight little marina.

The marina is still under construction, so we land our dinks for free, carry away city water (not yet metered) and use the crude clubhouse — an open-air tin-roofed structure recently decorated with burgees by Tomboy — for sail repair and frequent BBQs. The Panuelos are slowly building the foundation of a great yacht/sport fisher facility, and we're so pleased to do what we can to help them.

Every day here is a good one because we are healthy, happy and in a beautiful place. So if anyone is worried about us, worry no more.

— leslie and philip 04/15/13

Cruise Notes:

Who says coming back to California from Mexico has to be a Baja Bash? The 82-ft schooner Seaward, a non-profit educational tall ship, made the trip from Cabo to her berth at Sausalito's Bay Model — a distance of 1,600 miles — in just 11 days, 11 hours. "We'd originally planned to travel up the coast from Cabo, but the weather forecasts were perfect for the offshore Clipper Route," said Seaward's captain, Ryan Shamburger. "We were on starboard tack the entire trip, with a good southerly breeze for the last 60 hours. Full sail under clear skies with gently rolling seas was the norm. This was my first Clipper Route passage. Considering our fast run home, I'll always pick the offshore route over a Baja Bash."

To avoid potential disappointment, please note that Capt. Shamburger said "the weather forecasts were perfect for the Clipper Route." Normally boats leaving Cabo have to sail 400 to 600 miles offshore on starboard tack, often a little south of west, before they can flop back on port toward their ultimate goal. And rarely are they blessed with 60 hours of southerly winds at the end of the trip. Don't get us wrong, sailors have had success with the Clipper Route, but it's rarely as easy as Seaward had it.

And you thought you didn't like lawyers before. In early February, a group of four Irish lawyers, all members of the Royal Irish YC, set off from Connecticut for Bermuda and Antigua on the new-to-them Swan 44 Wolfhound. Sailing from the Northeast to Bermuda in February is not recommended, as it's often stormy along the way. The barristers set sail anyway. On the night of February 9, while 80 miles north of Bermuda, the four set off the EPIRB, indicating they were in distress. According to the Coast Guard, the wind was blowing 50 knots and the seas were 20 feet. Those certainly aren't pleasant conditions, but that's the kind of stuff to be expected on that passage at that time of year. Indeed, the sloop Heroina had similar conditions a few days later in the same spot. Thanks to the bravery and hard work of the pilots of a C-130, and that of the crews of two merchant vessels that were diverted, the four lawyers were removed from the sailboat in appalling rescue conditions. As it turned out, there was nothing wrong with the men — other than their being frightened. By asking to be rescued, the men no doubt put themselves and their rescuers at much greater risk of injury or death than had they stayed with the boat. The topper is that more than two months later the abandoned Swan was found doing just fine on her own 800 miles southeast of Bermuda, the main still tied nicely on the boom. We're asking that you be the judge. Should the "experienced sailors" be charged for their unnecessary evacuation? And should there be an additional fee for their having made the rescue more difficult by having not bothered to register their EPIRB?

"Cruisers in the Sea of Cortez have been pretty casual about securing their dinghies overnight, usually just tying them to the stern of the mothership," writes Jon Doornink of the Puerto Escondido-based Morgan Out-Island 37 Seadream. "Not only has locking one's dinghy for the night not been necessary, if you locked your dinghy to the Puerto Escondido dinghy dock, for example, the locals thought you were impeding their progress. But on the night of April 1 — I know, I know, but this turned out not to be a joke — a dozen cruisers were anchored at Caleta San Juanico anchorage. In the morning, one cruising boat near us was missing her brand new RIB and outboard. All that remained was a cut painter. Appeals to local fishermen and land-based Mexicans — backed by a big monetary reward and a promise of no questions being asked — yielded nothing. We have been cruising these wonderful waters for 15 years, and this is the first experience we've had of dinghy theft in Baja. Times — as well as the price of pollo — are changing in Mexico."

Is the following a coincidence?

"I live in La Paz," writes John Watts, "and I've noticed a sign on a trailer off to the side of Highway One that reads 'Dinghies For Sale, Like New'. From what I've been able to see, it looks as though there are a couple of inflatables in the trailer. Knowing that dinghies have been stolen from boats, I can't help but wonder if some of them have somehow ended up in the trailer. If people who have had dinghies stolen have the serial number or other identification, I would have no problem scoping things out and reporting back." Watts can be reached at .

Crossing bars to get into port is always dangerous when there is a big swell running; nonetheless mariners eager for shelter often risk it. Five people were plucked from the ocean near Ballina on the east coast of Australia last month after a sailboat got mixed up in breaking waves approaching the bar and soon ended up on the rocks. Some of those who needed to be rescued were from the sailboat, some were from an earlier rescue boat that had flipped in the steep six- to nine-foot waves. One of the victims was trapped in an air pocket beneath the boat for one hour. Miraculously, everyone survived. Miraculous because it was hard for the skipper of a second rescue vessel — a jet boat — to find the victims in the dark and in the big surf. Miraculous because it was too rough for a helicopter to lift anyone off jet boat. And miraculous because with almost everyone beginning to suffer from hypothermia, the skipper of the jet boat decided his only option was to drive the jet boat through the surf and onto Shelly Beach where ambulances were waiting. It was a gutsy desperation move that worked out well.

Things didn't turn out so well when the skipper of the 33-ft German yacht Meri Tuuli tried to cross Portugal's Figueira da Foz river bar late one afternoon last month when waves as high as 15 feet were breaking. A distress call was answered by members of the Policia Maritima in a RIB and on a jet ski. It wasn't long before five of the sailors were thrown into the water, and the RIB was flipped, throwing four of the maritime police into the water. One of the sailors and one of the maritime police were killed, and two sailors were badly hurt. Don't cross bars when big waves are breaking!

Did you read Naomi Crum's Changes in this issue and think it was maybe a little irresponsible for her parents not to discourage her from going cruising on a boat as small as her Columbia 23 Medusa? Before you do, be aware that in 1981, when her parents Bob and Jennie were about the same age as Naomi, they cruised the same coast on La Delfina — an Alacrity 21! In fact, that's when they met the 'Uncle Dale' mentioned in Naomi's report.

"When my husband and I were sailing down there in 1981 on our tiny boat," writes Jennie, "we met and played with a low-life sailor/surfer like us by the name of Dale Dagger. He was cruising on Zoo, his old Wharram cat. Flash forward to this year. When Naomi was heading down the Nicaraguan coast, I was home 'cruising' the coast ahead of her on Google Maps. My jaw dropped when I suddenly saw the notation: 'Dale Daggers cool place to stay'. It couldn't be a coincidence. I did a bit of email tracking to be sure, and it was 'our' Dale. He had stayed in Central America and become Nicaragua's go-to surf icon. We put Naomi and Dale in touch with each other, and Naomi ended up anchored in his bay at El Gigante for several weeks. He was really great to her, and we're stoked how small the world is when it comes to cruising friendships. By the way, Naomi is now at the end of her current cruise, as the trusty little Medusa doesn't sail upwind very well. So she's in the process of selling the boat to a couple of super keen wanna-be sailors in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. It'll be interesting to see what she does next, but I have a pretty good feeling it'll involve a sailboat."

From 1975 to 1995, French sailor Philippe Poupon, backed by 20 years of sponsorship from Fleury Michon, was one of the greatest ocean racers in the world. He won the Figaro Singlehanded Race, the Route du Rhum, set a transAtlantic record, flipped in the Southern Ocean during a Vendee Globe, and was a threat in every race he entered. With his racing days over, he decided he wanted to devote his life to the ocean environment, particularly in the polar regions. So in 1999, he made a polar voyage with the 36-ft Fleur Australe, named after a quasi-mythical flower said to grow in the most remote polar regions. In 2005, Poupon married the ridiculously lovely, vivacious and adventurous French actress Geraldine Danon. In 2010, the two decided to make a voyage to both polar regions on a new Fleur Australe, 60-ft pilothouse ketch designed and built specifically for ice. They would be accompanied by three very young children. As if it were no big deal, the family sailed from France to the Caribbean and up the East Coast of the U.S. to Canada, did a Northwest Passage, came down through Alaska, along the West Coast, across the Pacific to New Caledonia and other South Pacific islands, then to Australia and New Zealand. For the next three months — this now being early 2012 — they, accompanied by two crew, sailed to Antarctica to collect scientific data and make a film about their adventure. We saw them present the film before a hometown audience at the St. Barth Film Festival. Our respect for the duo — Geraldine even briefly went swimming in the ice-littered Antarctic Sea — is immense. But talk about a gloomy place to cruise! If they weren't dodging icebergs, plowing through ice fields, or building snowmen on the deck, it was at least overcast and foreboding. The wildlife, from hilarious penguins to a curious whale, was great. But for tropics-loving sailors such as ourselves, the film was almost as depressing as sitting through repeated viewings of Ingrid Bergman's The Seventh Seal. It didn't help, of course, that we don't understand much French and couldn't follow the dialogue. Lord knows there are people who love high-latitude and polar-region sailing, and God bless them. The good news for them is that they'll never be bothered by crowds.

"Having quit work and taken off sailing, I'm now anchored at Bahia Santa Cruz / Huatulco, which is in southern Mexico," reports surfing crazy German budget cruiser Stefan Ries of the Triton 29 Mintaka. "The sailing has been pretty good, as it's been mostly downwind or reaching, and I've spent very little time drifting. My best 24-hour run was 100 miles, the worst was 40 miles. The best waves? Chacahua!

Next week I'll be departing Mexico, and the wind will decide if I stop in El Salvador or sail directly to Nicaragua."

Jim and Kent Milski of Lake City, Colorado — with lots of time spent cruising in Mexico — are nearing completion of a four-year circumnavigation with the Schionning 49 cat Sea Level Jim completed from a kit. Having stopped at Cartagena and passed through the Panama Canal, they don't have much more than 1,000 miles to go to reach their outbound path.

"I've been very impressed with New Caledonia," reports Kurt Roll of San Diego, who is crewing for another season for Dietmar Petutschnig and Suzanne DuBose on the couple's Las Vegas-based Lagoon 440 catamaran Carinthia. "From what I'd been told, I expected New Caledonia to be more expensive than Tahiti, which is about as expensive as it gets. But not only is it like paradise down here, the cost of things isn't much more than back in the States. If anyone likes delicious French cheeses, bakery items, wines, fresh fruits and veggies, as well as fish and shrimp, they would love it here. As cruisers, the availability of this good food means the world to us. And the New Caledonians are wonderful. They're even forgiving of my French, which is limited to what I learned watching Pepe Le Pew cartoons. I've made a video of our experiences so far, which can be seen at:"

Fun facts about New Caledonia. It was first seen by Westerners in 1774 during the second voyage of Captain James Cook. The northeast part of what would become Grand Terre reminded him of Scotland, hence the name. It was nearly 100 years before the area was visited again, and only for its sandalwood. When the sandalwood ran out, the new trade became blackbirding, a euphemism for enslaving people from New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands, New Hebrides, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands to work in sugar cane plantations in Fiji and Australia. The victims of this trade, which continued until the start of the 20th century, were called kanakas, the Hawaiian word for 'man', as were all people of Oceania. Cannibalism was widespread in New Caledonia for many years. For instance, in 1849 the crew of the American ship Cutter were killed and eaten by a New Caledonian clan. Fortunately, regional dining habits had changed by the early 1900s.

"We're almost done refitting our 1969 Hardin Sea Wolf ketch," write a couple from Southern California who prefer to remain anonymous, "and my husband and I have had many discussions about where to head first. This morning he told me that he wants me to see the Pacific Northwest before heading to South America. His thinking is that staying close to the States might be smart until we get our sea legs and learn everything about our boat. So our question is when is the best time to sail from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest. We'd like to leave sometime this summer."

If you're headed north from Southern California, you'll generally find better weather in late summer and early fall. But since you don't seem to have any time constraints, we suggest that you harbor hop. If the weather stinks — and it may for a week or more at a time — just relax and explore wherever you are. And make sure the boat's engine is in good shape, because we suspect you'll be motoring most of the time.

"Today was another beautiful day in the paradise that is La Paz," writes Jane Roy of the Portland-based Hunter 54 Camelot, "except for the fact that a humpback whale beached itself on the sandbar in the La Paz Channel. But thanks to the help of many Mexicans and others, and the pulling power of a panga, the whale was towed back into deep water. Towels were used to keep the whale hydrated."

Also finding itself on a beach where it didn't belong was the 48-ft Chinese junk Flying Dragon, owned by Frenchman Marini Réfis and his Mexican wife Sibyl Gomez. They were reportedly motoring along the coast of Banderas Bay on the evening of April 1 when the engine failed. The couple attempted to set sail and to set an anchor, but with the wind and sea against them, the heavy teak vessel went ashore. Word of the vessel's distress spread quickly, so there was a large turnout of locals and cruisers to try to get the junk off at the 2 a.m. high tide. It was not successful. A later attempt — after as much gear as possible was offloaded, and after heavy equipment turned Dragon's bow to the waves — was successful.

The interesting vessel has quite a history. Built as a fishing boat in Hong Kong in 1925, she was converted to a cruising boat by an airline pilot, then shipped to Washington where she served as a floating pavilion for the 1974 World's Fair in Spokane. She later served as a floating brothel — ! — in Astoria, Oregon. Under new ownership, in 2011 she was rescued seven miles off the entrance to the Columbia River after her engine died. Earlier this winter, her outboard was stolen near La Cruz. We wish the owners better luck in the future.

With the summer cruising season almost upon us, we'd love to hear from you, wherever you're cruising. As always, short reports with high-res photos are best.

Missing the pictures? See the May 2013 eBook!


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