June, 2002

With reports this month from Still Searching on the Clipper Ship Route back from Mexico; from Moonshadow on taking line honors in the Auckland to Fiji Rally; from Reflections on a fast passage from the Galapagos to the Marquesas; from Solitaire on sailing from Southeast Asia to Japan; from Kynda on warm hospitality at Bahia Del Sol, El Salvador; from Voyager on the passage from Oman to Egypt; from Magic Carpet Ride on an inland trip to Mexico's Copper Canyon; from Altair on wrapping up an enjoyable season in New Zealand; from Maverick on passages up the Red Sea; and countless Cruise Notes.

Still Searching - Beneteau Oceanis 46
Rich Mullinax
Clipper Route Home From Mexico
(Vallejo YC)

After doing the Ha-Ha and cruising Mexico for the season, it was time to return to Northern California. There are three recognized routes from Mexico back to Northern California. The first and most popular is to motorsail up the coast, taking refuge when the weather gets rough, and going like crazy when the wind and seas are down. The second most popular way home is via Hawaii. It's a downwind sail to the Islands and mostly a reach home, so while you sail many more miles, it's easier and more pleasant going. The least frequently used option is the so-called 'clipper route', in that it was used by the old clipper ships. The general idea is that you sail offshore - we're talking hundreds and hundreds of miles - on starboard tack until you reach the northeast trades, which will progressively lift you until you start paralleling the coast. You continue riding this north until you can flop over and lay your California destination.

I decided to do the clipper route, and I left Puerto Vallarta on March 21 with three crew. Two of them, Curt Coplin and William Thomas, are friends from the Vallejo YC who flew down just to help me take the boat back. The third crewmember was David Roach, who had done the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race aboard the Jeanneau 52.2 Between the Sheets. He said that he would rather sail back than fly back home. Having four aboard allowed us a watch system of two hours on and six hours off - comparatively easy.

We slowly sailed out of Banderas Bay on light winds. Next time, I would motor out, but this time I was concerned about using my fuel early on. Once outside the bay, we had about seven to 10 knots of wind and headed out to sea pointing as high as we could. Even though our destination was NNW, we were lucky if we could even sail due west. But this was to be expected. After two days of this, we got headed and the wind went light. I knew we really needed to get further offshore, but I decided to tack to port, figuring there would be more wind closer to Cabo. After eight hours of this, I changed my mind and headed back out on starboard.

During the third day we passed 60 miles north of Isla de San Benedicto, which was a little frustrating, because it meant we still hadn't made any ground to the north of Puerto Vallarta. On the fourth day, however, we finally started to get lifted on starboard tack. On the fifth day - still heading mostly west - we finally made it north of PV. Although we were still well south of Cabo, we could see that things were trending in the right direction. For the next couple of days, we were able to sail in a northwesterly direction, meaning we were almost able to parallel the coast of Baja - but several hundreds miles to the west.

On the eighth day, we got headed. The choice was to either sail south, which would have been away from our destination, or tack onto port and head straight for San Diego. We headed for San Diego. Alas, we got headed the next day on port, so we flopped back to starboard, heading out to sea once again. After eight hours of that, we tacked back toward San Diego once again, sailing inside of Guadeloupe Island, which is about 150 miles off the coast. At this point the wind died, so we motored the last night and arrived in San Diego the following morning.

The trip took 12 days, during which time we motored 40 hours, some of it just to charge the batteries. I'd rather not motor when I can sail. We never had wind over 22 knots. We did have some big seas, however, although nothing really dangerous. My boat has a pretty flat bottom up forward, so we had to slow down or fall off at times to keep from pounding.

All in all, the trip was a nice experience for me and my crew. If I needed to sail back from Puerto Vallarta again, I would take the offshore route again. If I had waited another month later in the year, I think we might have been able to make a faster trip, as we might not have had headwinds as often. After all, if everything goes right, you're supposed to make it north on one tack. I didn't get to do the Sea of Cortez this time, so I expect that's where I'll go after my next sailing trip to Puerto Vallarta. In that case, I'd probably haul the boat, paint the bottom, and use the 'land bridge' across Baja - assuming it ever gets going.

The downside of this clipper route is that it means you'll be at sea for a long time, and we had mostly cloudly and cool weather. Before I left, Ed and Becky Scripps of the Los Altos-based Hylas 46 Sea Silk were thinking of making the same trip with their boat. It will be interesting to see how it went for them.

- rich 5/15/02

Readers - The key to success on the clipper ship route seems to be total commitment. You've got to be willing to sail 500 or so miles west - even a little southwest - before you're going to get lifted. And woe to the sailor who is afraid of commitment and flops back over prematurely, for he/she will not only be throwing away all the time and miles spent positioning for the increasing lift, but will be sailing into the worst possible situation, an increasing header. The way we see it, the further north your ultimate destination, the more the clipper route makes sense. For Seattle and San Francisco, it makes quite a bit of sense. For San Diego, it almost seems as though you have to sail too far offshore to get the lift to make it worthwhile. As for waiting another month, this year it would have brought you nothing but grief in the form of relentless strong winds on the nose.

Moonshadow - Deerfoot 62
George Backhus
Sailing for Fiji

Sorry that I haven't been in touch, but I've been busy hanging out in Auckland - and doing some Friday Rum Races - during the southern hemisphere summer. Even my spell check has developed a bit of a Kiwi accent. The good news is that we're getting ready to head north for the winter to do five months or so of cruising in Fijian waters.

We depart midday Sunday on the Ponsonby Cruising Club Rally to Musket Cove, which is on the island of Malololailai, Fiji, just west of Nadi. I'll have the company of three former 'Moo-Crew' passagemakers for the 1,150-mile event - Nick Bullock, Graham Jones, and Todd Meyer. After the rally and the week long Musket Cove Regatta, my crew will return to New Zealand and I'll be mostly singlehanding in Fiji, looking forward to visits from my yachtie friends.

April 28 - We're on our way to Fiji! This event was run twice in the late '80s for cruising boats wanting to get to the South Pacific cruising grounds, but was halted after the '89 event in which a skipper was lost overboard. But it's been revived again this year, and there are 16 entries. I like it because it's a casual and flexible affair. For example, if there was rotten weather at the start, they'd have postponed it. In addition, you can use your engine to make sure you get to Musket Cove in time for the group check-in formalities, and not have to go through the hassle of customs, quarantine, and immigration at Lautoka. There's also twice a day radio skeds and great parties at the end.

After a light air start off of Westhaven Marina yesterday at noon, the breeze filled in and Moonshadow has been charging north with a bone in her teeth ever since. By last evening, the wind was up to 25 knots and gusting to 35. But it's on the beam, just how we like it. Using just our working sails, we've put 215 miles under the keel in the 24 hours since leaving Auckland. Our first day was uneventful, as we are just getting our sea legs and becoming accustomed to life on a 20° heel - with occasional dips to 40° when we get hit by a big wave on the beam. The weather is reasonably warm, the sailing fast and wet, and the company great. The rally has a Mark Foy or 'rabbit start', so we are slowly closing in on the boats that departed Thursday and Friday, and lead the fleet we departed with on Sunday. Our main competition is Moonblue II, a gorgeous Warwick 65 that we've been playing leapfrog with since the start. Even though she's a few hundred meters behind us right now, she's giving me 'blender envy'. Get this, she has a 1 h.p. blender gimballed in the bar area so they can enjoy blender sports at any angle of heel.

April 29 - We enjoyed beautiful reaching conditions last night, but this morning the wind backed around to the south and eased off, giving us a few hours of running with our light air spinnaker. The wind then dropped to about seven knots, so we're sailing on a 'diesel breeze'. While we expect to get more breeze, the boats ahead in the rally are reporting light air, so it may be another day or two before we reach the trades. The good news is that it's an absolutely gorgeous day in the South Pacific High, and we are bathing in the sun as we are gently nudged along by a 3-4 meter following sea. MaiTai my cat has taken a new interest in the radar screen at night. When it comes on, she chases targets on the screen. The only problem is that my laptop computer sits right under the radar, so the computer protests with all sorts of beeps and alarms when she is dancing on the keyboard. We're never short of cheap entertainment with MaiTai onboard. As of the morning roll call, we were 33 miles behind the lead boat. A great big thanks from the crew to Nick's wife Karen, for the great lasagna we devoured last evening and for a snack this morning. Precooked meals rock!

April 30 - Moonshadow crossed the halfway mark at 0600 hours, and it seems as if we've reached the top of the hill and are coasting down the other side. After motorsailing in light breezes and calm seas for most of the night, the breeze freshened at first light. Graham and I set the spinnaker at 0500, and we quietly started sailing again. The wind gradually came forward on us, so we changed from the kite to our new #3 headsail, which is driving us at 8 to 10 knots in 15 to 20 knots of breeze. At this rate, we should reach the finish line at Navula Pass late Friday night. The Sea Gods have been kind to us so far on this passage, and donated one of their own, a 20-pound mahi-mahi for our halfway party dinner this evening. The biggest decision of the day for the crew is how to prepare the fish - or whether to cook it at all. The sake is chilling! Our noon-to-noon run was 201 nautical miles. A stationary front has clouded up the skies and dropped a few showers on us, but even on morning watch it was shorts and T-shirt weather. It keeps getting warmer every day as we get further north. Our position in the rally is improving as well. As of this morning's radio sked, we were 60 miles ahead of Moonblue, and at noon today we passed Risque Affair, an ex-IOR 45-footer that was designed by Oakland's Gary Mull. We're gaining on the last two boats ahead of us, and hope to overtake them before the finish.

May 1 - Surf's up! For the past 24 hours we have been sailing through a 'squash zone', which is where a low pressure system and a high pressure system do a slow dance together that creates some strong breezes and spirited sailing conditions. The difference between miserable and pleasurable sailing often depends on the direction of the wind. We've been on the wrong end of some of these squash zones in the past, and it was miserable. But in this case, the 25 to 42 knot winds have been on our starboard quarter, making it an E-Ticket ride. The fresh breeze has also kicked up a nine to 12-foot swell, which has made for great surfing conditions. It's hard to believe that a yacht weighing in at 25 tons can surf off a wave like a 30 pound fiberglass board, but it can.

Last evening the boys took tricks at the helm, seeing who could get the best speed surfing down a wave. Nick got 12 knots, and Todd later took top human driver honors with 14 knots. 'Wilhelm' our autopilot - which holds the boat's all-time record of 17 knots - was not to be shown up, and kept besting the boys with 15s and 16s. Late this morning, Wilhelm took off on a large and well formed wave, and sent us flying at 17.6 knots - a new boat record! Don't try driving your own home at this speed. Needless to say, this has not only been about as much fun as four guys can have with their clothes on, but has propelled us into the front of the rally fleet. We did 246 miles in the last 24 hours, and expect to be in Fiji in time for happy hour tomorrow.

May 2 - We've less than 50 miles to go, it's still blowing in the 25 to 30 knot range, and Moonshadow is charging along like a horse that can see the barn, so the champagne is cooling. We had another noon-to-noon run of 237 miles, keeping our rally speed at slightly more than nine knots. The next closest yacht is 120 miles to the south of us, so we're taking things pretty easy. Even though we haven't made landfall, the boys reckon that they can smell the palm trees at Musket Cove and hear the bottles tinkling at the $3 bar. I suppose that all the senses, including thirst, become more acute with deprivation. We continue to be under a thin cloud layer, which probably keeps us from burning our white skin.

The skipper took a trick at the helm during one of the windy periods yesterday, looking to beat the surfing speeds achieved by two crack helmsmen. After about an hour of frustration - meaning surfs of just 12 to 13 knots - the mother of all surf waves appeared in my peripheral vision, and we took off as though we were off to the races. Just about the time the knotlog was registering 17, the spray completely drenched me. It was quite refreshing, if not humorous. At 17.4, I am still 2/10ths of a knot off of Wilhelm's record.

May 4 - Bula bula from Fiji! We crossed the finish line in Navula Pass yesterday afternoon, 5 days, 4 hours, and 42 minutes after our start off Westhaven in Auckland. We were the first rally boat across the finish, 12 hours ahead of Moonblue II. We averaged 9.2 knots for the passage. As is customary after any Ponsonby Cruising Club race, the crew enjoyed a refreshing rum and coke - all right, maybe two - as we sailed in protected waters to a calm anchorage off of Nadi. After five days of rocking, rolling, surfing and the constant sound of water rushing past Moonshadow's hull, it was a pleasant respite from the excitement of the sail. As soon as we were in the lee of Viti Levu, we could smell the rich aromas of the tropical South Pacific island. We really had arrived in Fiji. Unfortunately, we got here two days before our organized Customs clearance, so we will be quarantined on board till tomorrow morning!

As far as passages go, this would rate as one of the best ever for me. It was fast, none of the crew so much as stubbed a toe, we all enjoyed each other's company, and we didn't break any gear. MaiTai is even starting to warm up to the boys. And yes, it's always nice to be the first boat in.

- george 5/5/02

Reflections - Valiant Esprit 37
Gene & Sheri Seybold
The Galapagos To The Marquesas

We made it! It took us 19 days and 3 hours to cover the 2,992 miles from the Galapagos to the Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva, in the Marquesas. That's an average of 6.49 knots - which we think is amazing for a 37-foot boat. Furthermore, we only motored for 14 hours.

Making landfall was sweet, but we had another very wonderful surprise awaiting us when we pulled into the bay. Paul and Mary of the Tayana 37 Aventura - old diving friends that we hadn't seen since a year before in Z-town - were there in their dinghy to greet us. In addition to guiding us to a suitable anchorage, they handed us a bag full of fresh bananas and grapefruit. These were a real treat, since our supply of fresh produce had been consumed long before. While we were getting the anchor down, the couple took off for town - and soon returned with a huge loaf of French bread that was so fresh it was almost too hot to handle. It was the most delicious bread we've ever tasted. They bake it fresh here in a wood burning oven every day.

At nearly 3,000 miles, the Galapagos to Marquesas passage is one of the longest in cruising, and ours was as fantastic as it was long. We had great winds, which meant that the seas were a little choppy, but also that our passage would be quite fast. We had no major equipment failures. The only piece of gear that was damaged was a sacrificial carabiner we use on our mainsail preventer, and it served its purpose by breaking. We did experience some chafing of the sun cover on our new headsail, and had a few sail slides come off our mainsail. But after 3,000 miles of nonstop sailing, that was to be expected.

There is an old saying that says a rolling stone gathers no moss. Well, a moving sailboat sure does! We couldn't believe what our hull and bottom looked like once we got to the Marquesas. We had brown scum that started on the waterline and went 18 inches up the topsides! As for the bottom, it had algae and the largest collection of gooseneck barnacles that we have ever seen. These goosenecks were nearly three inches long, and there were thousands of them all along the stern! We've left Reflections on the hook for a month at a time and had never experienced bottom growth like that. You have to wonder how these things can grow on a quickly moving boat.

After we got the anchor down, it was time for some 'high fives' and to pop the cork on the bottle of champagne. Yes, it was morning, but we'd earned it. As for the anchorage itself, it was absolutely spectacular. The water is a lovely shade of blue, and towering pinnacles surround the bay. Even though we were pretty tired, the blue water was irresistible. Gene grabbed his snorkel gear and headed for the rock walls surrounding the bay. The first thing he saw was a lion fish, which are as beautiful as they are poisonous. I also saw a spotted eagle ray and, of course, a white tip reef shark. What a joy it was to be in blue water once again and away from the green water of Central America.

Checking the log, we came up with some other interesting statistics on our passage: Our fastest 24-hour run was 184 miles or 7.67 knots. Our fastest 6-hour run was 50 miles or 8.33 knots. Our slowest 24 hour run was 138 miles or 5.75 knots. Our slowest six hours was 31 miles or 5.17 knots. We passed 11 boats during the passage, only one of which was shorter than ours. Only one boat passed us, and she was a 63-footer. Even our slowest days were quite respectable, considering that we're only 37 feet and were heavily loaded. The only problem since we got here? We can't find the race committee.

- gene & sheri 5/6/02

Gene & Sheri - Congratulations on a very fast passage. As far as we're concerned, the most striking statistic is that over a course of nearly 20 days, you never averaged less than 5.17 knots for six hours.

Solitaire - Barnett 42
Stephen Faustina With Mike Holtz
Yokohoma, Japan

It's been a long time since I last wrote, and I have covered quite a few miles during that time. Solitaire is currently in Yokohoma, Japan, at the Yokohoma Bayside Marina. This is the largest marina in Japan and has excellent facilities. When Mr. Onozawa, the marina manager, showed me the price list for berthing, I almost had a heart attack. The daily rate for a 42-footer such as Solitaire is listed at 11,000 yen - or $90 U.S. Mr. Onozawa was quick to add that as a visiting yacht, we would be given an 80% discount. At first I thought I misunderstood him and that the discount was 20%, but no, it was 80%. That brought the daily rate down to a more affordable level.

When I left Thailand in September of last year, my original plan was to sail down under to Australia and New Zealand. As we approached Indonesia, however, we heard reports that Americans were persona non-grata in that country after the events of 9/11. I had also been having difficulty securing a cruising permit for Indonesia. So while in Singapore, we changed our plans and sailed up the South China Sea to Subic Bay in the Philippines. I had Solitaire hauled out in October, then flew down to Darwin to play tourist for three months in Oz and New Zealand.

Having spent time there, New Zealand ranks as my number one favorite place. I have a friend in Auckland who is a member of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron - which currently has title to the America's Cup - and she was able to get me a crew position on a 50-ft Reichel/Pugh design for some local races. This was great fun, especially when we went out to greet the Volvo Race boats as they crossed the finish, and then again when they restarted.

We then sailed here from the Philippines, where I had some of the best and worst sailing of my life. Along the way to Japan, we stopped at Hua Lien, Taiwan; Okinawa; and two other islands in the Ryukyus before reaching Kochi on Japan's southern main island of Shikoku. At every port we visited, we were one of the very first - if not the first - foreign yacht to visit in a long time. As such, we were treated with great respect and were objects of immense interest. Japan is an amazing country that never ceases to amaze me.

Our plans are to stay here in Yokohoma until mid-June, and then cross the North Pacific back to San Francisco and home. If all goes as planned, we should be completing a four-year circumnavigation this summer.

- steve 5/15/02

Kynda - Passport 40
Peter & Linda Young
Bahia Del Sol, El Salvador
(New Westminster, British Columbia)

Having just visited Bahia Del Sol in El Salvador, we thought other cruisers should be aware of continuous improvements being made by the owner Marco Zablah and General Manager Hector Castro. Their goal is to make cruisers welcome and comfortable.

As is the case with Marina Barillas - the other major cruiser port of call in El Salvador - it's necessary to cross a bar to get into the estuary where Bahia Del Sol is located. If you call the marina when you're 30 minutes away, they will give you a time when it's safe to cross the bar and will send a panga out to guide you in. The waypoint is 13°15.7'N, 088°53.48'W. We arrived in the middle of the night, and safely anchored in an open roadstead near the waypoint until daylight.

Once across the bar, the estuary anchorage is fully protected against waves and surge, and there's good holding in four to six fathoms off the luxury hotel and resort complex. They also have some moorings to rent, and have started to build a few docks. Bahia Del Sol will arrange for the Navy and Immigration to come out to your boat and check you in. It is a friendly, painless, and quick process - that only costs $10! Checking out - including getting an international zarpe - is at no additional charge.

In addition to getting a free first drink at Bahia Del Sol, you're allowed full use of the resort facilities - which include two lovely pools, one of which overlooks the ocean. If you start an account for things such as food, drinks and Internet use, you get a 30% discount. But listen to this - they also give you one night's free stay in one of their hotel rooms, breakfast included!

Wednesday nights have become 'cruiser night'. This means that from 5 to 8 p.m. - and sometimes longer - drinks are discounted. Beer and mixed drinks with local liquor are just $1. The resort supplies trays of appetizers, and if there is interest, arranges for local speakers. One night we listened to a travel agent give a presentation and show a video on El Salvador. It provided us with a great overview of the country and suggested what we should see and do before leaving. Satellite television in an air-conditioned room is also offered.

While not an official activity, it has become standard practice for all the cruisers to meet around the pool each afternoon and play cards or dominos. Afterwards, we usually enjoy the delicious and reasonably priced dinners.

Bahia Del Sol has a fuel dock with clean diesel. At $1.38 U.S./gallon, it is said to be the least expensive in the country. Dinghy landings were safe and easy using the stairs at the base of the restaurant. If you have a planing dinghy, there's a regular market about 20 minutes up the estuary. If you don't have a planing dinghy, you can catch a ride on the resort's panga when they go to provision. Like Panama, El Salvador uses the U.S. Dollar as their currency.

The navy patrols the waterway, so many cruisers have felt comfortable leaving their boats for extended inland travel. The navy is friendly, too. One day my wife Linda and two other cruisers got a real treat - the navy took them to the market in their air boat! San Salvador, the capital and largest city, is an easy day trip by local bus. The resort also has a rental car on site for $40/day for cruisers.

Marco and Hector continue to enhance their services to cruisers to make their stays enjoyable and inexpensive. This is a place worth stopping and spending time on your trip south. We planned on stopping for a few days - but it was so wonderful that we stayed for three weeks!

P.S. Thank you for your support of the First Annual Zihua Sailfest. What a great time everyone had!

- peter & linda young 5/02

Peter & Linda - Thanks for the informative report. We've heard nothing but great stuff about Bahia Del Sol. As for the Zihua Sailfest, we plan to be there again early next February.

Voyager - Cascade 36
Kate Rakelly (8) And Parents
Oman To Egypt

The people in the Middle East are always asking about our nationality. One day my dad and I took a taxi from the harbor to Salalah, Oman, to buy some parts. As always, we made conversation with the driver, who asked where we were from. We're from Portland, but in order to avoid a lot of questions about U.S. foreign policy, my dad has learned to say that we're from Mexico or Canada. On this day, my dad told the driver we were from Canada.

"Great country, Canada," said the driver. "I like people from Canada."

"Do a lot of Canadians come to Oman?" my father asked.

"Yes," said the driver. "Many come on cruise ships or fly in." As we neared the parking lot of the parts store, the driver added that he liked Canadians "because they always give me a little more than the fare."

My dad didn't believe that a lot of Canadians would be visiting Oman, nor that Canadians would give a taxi driver a large tip, so he asked the driver what part of the country Canadian visitors came from.

"New Jersey," replied the driver. After my dad gave him a modest tip, I was told that henceforth, we'd only speak Spanish to taxi drivers.

We nonetheless enjoyed our stay in Oman. There were several other yachts with children, which is great, because the best part of cruising for me is meeting kids from other yachts. While in Oman, most of the 'kid-boats' were together for once, so I had great times with the kids from two Norwegian, French, and American boats, and one Canadian boat. Every day after school, we'd get together and play baseball in a parking lot with a plastic ball and bat.

On our last night in Oman, my dad played baseball with us kids, and then invited two Somalian fishermen to join in. They didn't know how to play, of course, so we had to teach them. My dad and the two Somalian men were playing in the outfield, and after three outs, my father motioned to the fishermen that it was time to walk in from the outfield. The two men came alongside my dad, and each one took one of his hands, so that the three were holding hands! You don't see this in the United States, but it's very common to see men holding hands in the Middle East. You don't, however, see men and women holding hands in public. Later that night I overheard my father tell my mother what it was like to hold hands with two fishermen. "It wasn't too bad when we held hands coming in from the outfield, but it really bothered me that they didn't let go once we got in."

While in Oman, we visited Job's Tomb, the Queen of Sheba's winter palace, camel herds, and a real desert oasis. We had hired an Omani tour guide for our sightseeing, and his name - like that of 90% of the other Middle Eastern men that we met - was Mohammed. Oman has an interesting culture, as women and children are rarely seen in public. The men even do the shopping for food. So unless you are invited into an Omani home, you'd never meet the women or the children. The families that we did meet were open-minded, extremely friendly towards Westerners, and gracious hosts.

We left Salalah on February 17 in the company of six other boats that we planned to sail with past Yemen - which is noted for pirates - and into the Red Sea. All the different groups - or 'pods' - had names. We were the 'Little Rascals'. A group of French boats were the 'French Toast'. One group that shared a common liking for pizza became the 'Pizza Group'. There was a mostly German group, and later a splinter group of non-Germans who broke off from that pod and became known as the 'Enough Group'. Lastly, there were the 'Road Runners', a loose association of boats that were waiting for boat parts to arrive before they could leave. In all, about 40 yachts sailed out of Salalah around February 17.

There were many warships in the region, the most warm and welcoming of which were the British, who always offered assistance. The most generous were the French, who provided 24-hour military air cover to protect us cruisers against attacks by pirates! This was the result of the French family on Lemanja - with two of my girlfriends aboard - telephoning the French military command in Djibouti to inform them that yachts with children would be passing by Yemen during a certain time frame. So the French Navy dispatched planes every six hours to check on us between Oman and Djibouti! There was a Japanese warship that needed a new radio, because it sounded as though they were speaking Greek. The Italian sailors seemed to be having the best time, as the radio operators were always laughing on the VHF. The overdone professionalism of the American warships made them seem cold, and was a little embarassing to us American yachties.

After dinner on February 22, we got our first whiff of Africa - and it wasn't pleasant. Here's my notation in the ship's log: "Africa smells like a spice cabinet in a barnyard filled with rotting vegetables." Four hours after making that log entry, we'd made it through the Bab el Mandeb narrows and past the most dangerous areas. The VHF was crammed with congratulations between yachts. In the festive atmosphere, it mosly went unnoticed that the wind was quickly building from the south.

[Continued next month.]

- kate 5/5/02

Magic Carpet Ride - Passport 40
Dave Smith & Angie Deglandon
The Copper Canyon
(Seattle, WA)

We've had another nice season in Mexico. Starting in La Paz in October, we sailed north across the Sea of Cortez to meet a friend in San Carlos. While there, I met some compadres from Benicia, my old home town. They were preparing to have their boat trucked to California. From San Carlos, we worked our way down the west side of the Sea, and enjoyed some beautiful anchorages, including Caleta San Juanico, our favorite.

Despite waiting for four days for good weather to cross the Sea again to Mazatlan, we had confused seas and gusts to 40 knots. It didn't help that it was pitch black out, the seas were on the beam, and the autopilot quit 15 hours from port. It wasn't until we got to Mazatlan that we realized we'd lost some important gear - a 5-gallon gas jug, a spare bow anchor, and most mysterious of all, a whisker pole that had been attached to the mast. Fortunately, we got a nice slip at Marina El Cid in Mazatlan, which is part of a resort with a couple of swimming pools with bars, lush tropical grounds, tennis courts, a gym, and much more. Our trip to Puerto Vallarta took about 30 hours, with the temperature going up by the hour. After a night at Punta de Mita, we pulled into Paradise Village Resort and Marina, whose name says it all. The resort has a small zoo, and the animals got used to our bringing them peanuts, bananas, chicken pieces, and bread almost every night on our way to the showers.

One of the interesting things we did this season was take a bus/van/train adventure to Copper Canyon, which is the Grand Canyon of Mexico. It's also home to the Tarahumara Indians, who live in caves and scratch out a very meager existence. They prefer to be left alone and not participate in our 'civilized' world, which is why they still do things like wash their clothes on rocks. Nonetheless, one little five-year-old girl served as our 'guide' on a hike to a waterfall. She spoke only Tarahumara, so about all we could figure out is that she was five years old.

We spent a couple days at Urique, a village at the bottom of one of the canyons that was a three hour van ride on a dirt track. We stayed at El Rancho de Keith - Keith being a Vietnam veteran who runs a camping area, bunkhouse, and shower room for travelers. The shower water is heated by a wood fire and is gravity fed. Still, after a few days, any shower is wonderful. If anyone wants to go inland while in Mexico, they shouldn't overlook the Copper Canyon.

- angie 4/15/02

Altair - Cal 35
Paul Baker & Suzette Connolly
New Zealand

Our parents send us copies of Latitude every month, so we recenty got to read about the 2001 Ha-Ha - which brought back a flood of great memories about the Ha-Ha we did in 2000. It also made us realize how much we've learned about cruising in the subsequent 18 months that we've spent sailing across the Pacific.

In anticipation of heading back to the South Pacific, we've just had a great haul out down here at Ray Robert's yard in Whangarei. This is a great town for cruisers without cars, as everything is within walking distance - including Pak n' Save, where we did our provisioning. This is a town that really seems to welcome cruisers, and they have a very nice complex at the Town Basin.

So far, the weather for leaving for the South Pacific has been a bit "unkind" - to use a Kiwi word - so only a few boats have left in the last week. Today the weather was better, and 24 boats left for their South Pacific Island of choice - be it Niue, Tonga, Fiji, or Vanuatu. We will be heading back to Tonga again for a month, as there were some places we missed last year, and we're interested to see how the Vava'u Group survived tropical cyclone Waka that hit them on New Year's Eve. From there, we are thinking of heading to Wallis, a small French island, and will then spend most of the cruising season in Fiji - which we have heard offers fantastic cruising and is very inexpensive. In any event, we are looking forward to getting back to the tropics, with the warmer weather and turquoise water.

While in New Zealand, we have certainly come to appreciate the Kiwi boating spirit. There are lots of great boats here, and the Kiwis are not afraid of building their own boats - or of making major modifications themselves. During our stay, we have adjusted to Kiwi boating terms: powerboats are 'launches', wooden boats are 'timber boats', and sailboats are 'yachts'. We've liked many of the boats we've seen. Unlike in the States, more boats have tillers than wheels, and most have swim steps in back for easy access from the water and the dinghy. It's common to see Kiwis taking a swim off their boats in water Americans would not consider all that warm. Kiwi sailboats tend to have larger engines than those in the States. Whereas a 43-foot boat in the States might have a 37-hp engine, a Kiwi boat would have at least 50 hp - and more likely 60 hp. Kiwis don't want to mess around if there is no wind, but would rather get somewhere fast. Folks down here aren't shy about their boat names either. The names are frequently splashed on the sides of boats in large letters with gaudy graphics, and names such as Pretty Boy Floyd, Sweet As, Jesse James, and Voodoo Lounge.

Generally speaking, people in New Zealand seem to be more relaxed, and many things that would cause great distress in the States are easily taken in stride. We have enjoyed having access to just about anything that we would want to buy in the past five months, but also found provisioning for the upcoming season to be less frantic than when we did it in Panama a year ago. We now know that you can easily get the basics out in the islands, so are only stocking up on special treats.

We love New Zealand, and will be returning later this year for the America's Cup.

- paul & suzette 5/10/02

Readers - Almost all cruisers rave about Auckland and the rest of New Zealand, but the capital does have a dirty little secret - a high rate of violent crime. Much of it is perpetrated by Pacific Islanders, who make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population. A Kiwi friend who has crewed for us, and whose parents still live in Auckland, says that she feels much safer jogging in San Francisco than her hometown.

Cruise Notes:

When it comes to doing the Baja Bash - meaning making the 750-mile upwind passage from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego at the end of the cruising season - some years are worse than others. From the reports we've gotten - and several of them appear in this month's Letters - this was one of the worst years in memory. It wasn't so much that the winds - 20 to 30 knots - were horribly strong, but that they blew relentlessly, creating troublesome seas that never seemed to let up.

"I just got in yesterday from doing the Baja Bash with my dad aboard our Perry 72," writes John Folvig of the San Diego-based Perry 72 Elysium. "It seemed particularly bad this year, as we rarely saw less than 20 knots of wind, regularly had it mid-20s, and had two days in the 30s - including a top wind speed of 38 knots. All on the nose, of course. Two days ago, we heard a Pan Pan broadcast by the Coast Guard for our friends Rob Runge and Kristen aboard the Pearson 36 ketch Sol Mate, reporting that they'd lost steerage in heavy seas and high winds near San Carlos. I spoke with the Coast Guard several times about the incident, and learned that the couple did arrive safely and anchored in the lee of a point seven miles south of San Carlos. Hopefully, they were able to get moving and make the final seven miles to San Carlos, as I just sailed under that other point two days ago in 30 plus knots, and know there is absolutely no protection there."

Rob Runge's account of his Bash with Kristen aboard Sol Mate appears in this month's Letters.

"Like many kids who grew up in Southern California, my first experience on a boat was the Buccaneer ride at Magic Mountain, which is a giant schooner that swings back and forth like a pendulum high in the air," writes Jean Leitning of Berkeley, who is crewing aboard Renne Waxlax and Anne Blunden's Cabrillo Beach-based Swan 65 Cassiopea. "Well, that ride is similar to the motion of Cassiopea on the first half of our Baja Bash. Instead of wearing a seatbelt, you wear a tether to keep you from being launched from the boat. We have enough crew to do three hours on and nine hours off, so you'd think we'd be well rested. But it's been so rough that I'm exhausted each time I crash into my bunk. While getting ready for my 0600 watch, I mistook a small container of Mexican sour cream for yogurt. I wasn't sure what Mexican yogurt is supposed to taste like, so I just kept eating it. Oh well. It turns out that my boyfriend Dustin was the one who got sick, because rather than surveying the horizon as we left Cabo in the building seas, he was down below organizing his bunk. This seemed to bring on a 24-hour bug, which included aches and fever. It took us just under 40 hours to make the 300 miles from Puerto Vallarta to Cabo, but it has taken us nearly the same amount of time to make the 175 miles from Cabo San Lucas to Bahia Santa Maria - which is much slower than we hoped. And we're having to wait out the weather here. What a change it is from when we were here during the Ha-Ha in early November, when it was so warm and peaceful. Last night it was blowing 25 in the anchorage and gusting to 35. It looked stark and was f--king cold!"

A few days later, after publishing Leitning's thoughts in 'Lectronic Latitude, we received the following letter:

"It's hard for me to believe that people can complain about bad delivery weather when they're on a Swan 65," writes Nick Gibbens of Northern California. "I remember making one of those Bashes aboard a Carter Two-Tonner with 30 knots on the nose - and a big bladder of diesel rolling around in the cockpit. The oncoming watch would designate a guy to wrestle the fuel blob into a corner and squeeze some diesel into the tank, while the helmsmen tried to keep the waves from crashing over him. Since we had to motorsail this way for eight days in a flat bottomed 42-ft racing boat to get to San Diego, a Swan 65 would have been a major improvement."

Cassiopea made it to Turtle Bay, where several problems were discovered. They were minor, but the skipper wanted them taken care of before they continued north into possibly more bad weather. So Anne Blunden and Jean Leitning made the arduous trek by land from Turtle Bay back to San Diego; Anne to get boat parts, Jean to return to work. The van left isolated Turtle Bay at 0230, and after a long ride over a washboard road, dropped them off at Vizcaino bus depot at 0600 - just in time to catch the bus for Tijuana. The bus was surprisingly comfortable, but thanks to the long distance and stops by the Federales, the entire trip took almost 24 hours. The next day Anne and Jean drove all over San Diego finding parts, after which it was time for Anne to return to the boat. Because the van doesn't run from Vizcaino to Turtle Bay on Fridays, Anne looked for alternative ways to get back. A Tijuana taxi driver took her to the salt company offices to see if she could catch a ride on their plane to Turtle Bay. "Hell no," was the answer, but in more polite words. But Anne somehow managed to arrange for a charter plane to fly - by a rather unusual route - to Turtle Bay. When the pilot showed up, he told Anne they had to drive to Ensenada because the Tijuana airport was "too expensive". On the way, he asked if she minded if they picked up another pilot. Before it was over, he picked up four pilots. Then he asked if she would mind if they brought along some meat to drop off at Cedros Islands. When Anne finally got into the back of the Cessna 182 at the Ensenada Airport, she had to share the back seat with a side of beef and a lot of chickens! "It was kinda fun," she said. While making an approach at Cedros, Anne saw two sailboats headed north - and getting pounded. When they finally arrived at Turtle Bay, the pilot buzzed Cassiopea twice, to try to let Renne - who had no idea how or when Anne was coming back - know that she had made it. After landing at Turtle Bay, she hitched a ride back to town with the Federales. "Everybody on the boat was shocked to see me," she says. She, in turn, was shocked to learn that Renne and Dustin had thrown a dinner and movie party while she was gone, and otherwise had a great time with the locals.

In other Baja Bash bad news, Bob Fraik of the San Diego based SC 52 Impulse reports that the 40-ft ketch Fantasy lost her freestanding carbon fiber mast, leaving a big hole in the deck. Apparently, there were no injuries. Fraik also reports that a singlehander named Aaron aboard the 40-ft sloop Brass Ring lost his engine, began taking on water, then lost his bilge pumps. As if that wasn't bad enough, he thought his leukemia was acting up and decided that he needed medical help. At last word, he'd been airlifted out and his boat left behind. Adam Sedag also nearly had the sinking feeling with his Alameda-based Morgan 38 Blarney3 - you can read about it in Letters.

When coming home to San Francisco from Mexico, you never know what kind of conditions you're going to get. Sometimes you might do well on the 750-mile Baja Bash, not have a bad time from San Diego to Point Conception, but then get nailed somewhere along the last 250 miles from Conception to the Golden Gate. In fact, that's what happened to Larry Weinhoff's Daly City-based Ericson 28 Synergyzer. According to friends, Weinhoff and crew made it from Cabo to San Diego in eight days, which is excellent for a 28-footer, and were jamming up the coast until they encountered a gale just 120 miles south of the Golden Gate. "We were just north of Cape San Martin when the port shroud let go and we lost the mast," they wrote. "We've managed to make it 55 miles south to Morro Bay, as it was impossible to continue north in the nine-foot breaking seas atop a nine to 12-foot swell."

"What did the water look like after we crossed the equator on our way from San Diego to the Marquesas?" asks 'Ricardo' Bernard of the San Diego-based Valiant 42 Surf Ride - who is actually crewing aboard the San Diego-based S&S 55 Charisma. "Well, the water looked exactly the same as it did on the other side - confused! By midday, however, we found a new wind, and then right on schedule picked up the southwest trades. At 15 to 20 knots, these trades were more gentle than the northeast trades, and the water quickly warmed to 80 degrees. We then got another pleasant surprise - the current that had been against us became a 1.25 knot favorable current. Thanks to the wind, current, and following seas, we started averaging nine knots. We're currently 529 miles from a tropical landfall in the Marquesas, where hopefully there will be a restaurant where we can be waited on and throw back some cold ones. It's a day later now, and last night and today we've had the kind of sailing conditions that you dream about - pleasant trades, following seas, and mostly sunny skies. It's very relaxing, but we're all surfers, so we're itching for some good waves and real exercise - although we're getting a great isometric workout just living on this moving boat! I think that sailing and surfing full time would be a great way to stay in good physical and mental shape. By the way, Angela 'The Surf Queen' DeVargas, who did the Ha-Ha with me last year, is also onboard and eager for two months of surfing in the Marquesas, Tuamotus, and Society Islands."

It's a small sailing world. While walking through the general store at Two Harbors on Catalina a couple of days after getting Bernard's email, a couple of guys walked up and asked if we were the Wanderer. One of them is Paul, who turned out to not only be the Surf Queen's boyfriend, but is also the contractor who built Ricardo's surf shop in Oceanside - and the new addition, too. The other fellow was Giles, described as "the Surf Queen's good friend" and owner of the Newport 41 Petrel - as well as a guy who races paddleboards from Catalina to the mainland.

In October of last year, Ants Uniga's Chance 3/4 Tonner Eclipse was knocked off her cradle in La Paz by the fury of hurricane Juliette. For the next two months, the damage was assessed, and in December the insurance company agreed to total the boat. Ants bought her back for salvage value. In early February, he drove to La Paz and stripped the boat of all her gear, but was then faced with a dilemma. Should he cut the boat up for cold-molded construction souvenirs or look for a local buyer? One consideration was that the yard was going to charge $800 to cut the hull up and dispose of it. On February 18, Ants sold Eclipse for one peso, sparing him the disposal fee. She'll be reincarnated by locals as the main hull of a trimaran! Between now and next March, Ants reports that old Eclipse parts will be used to finish off a cold-molded Wylie 31 being built at the newly-formed Bodfish Boatworks - which just happens to be in the front yard of his home near Lake Isabella. He intends to sail the boat in Baja Ha-Ha 10 the following October.

"After three wonderful years of cruising in Mexico with our Jeanneau 40 Utopia, we're selling the boat, as Cynthia and Mattie the boat dog are ready for the Caribbean," writes John Tindle of Hermosa Beach. "We'll miss our friends in Mexico, but we're tired of motoring, the not-so-clear water, and the continued hassles of checking in. Although it's time for us to move on, we'll look forward to seeing many of our old friends in the Caribbean in the next few years - and even the Wanderer in St. Barts. We've already purchased a '97 Jeanneau 45 in Martinique for our Caribbean cruising."

Mexico is a wonderful place to cruise, the best parts being that the people are so friendly, there is so much cruiser camaraderie, that it's easy, and there is so much variety. The Caribbean has great cruising, too, the best parts being wonderful sailing breezes, ultra clear water, countless anchorages, and many cultures. The down side of the Caribbean is that virtually all of the people are less friendly and more surly than in Mexico. As for finding the Wanderer in the Caribbean, here's the time and place: Midnight, New Year's Eve, Quai Charles de Gaulle, Gustavia, St. Barts. Bonne année, mes amis!

"Living on the hook for a year in Southern California sure beats being on the freeway - or for that matter, being in a marina," write Mike Lancon and Verna Vanis of the Los Angeles-based 42-ft Peterson Coaster gaff schooner Lifee P. Baker. "After leaving Ventura West Marina in January of 2001, we went to San Diego until June of last year, then to Catalina until February of this year. Verna, who owns the boat, is still working to top off the cruising kitty, but hopes to retire soon for a fall departure to Mexico. I'm retired from 23 years of Navy service, and maintain the schooner. We've taken first place in both the One More Time and Schooner Cup Regattas. Latitude has been a great inspiration to me for 15 years, so if any readers are interested in knowing how to live on the hook in Southern California, we'd be happy to exchange information. Just ."

"After a little over two months on the mainland side of Mexico, we crossed back over to Baja in the middle of April," report Dave and Merry Wallace of the Redwood City-based Amel Maramu Air Ops. "We had a nice crossing, and then a couple of good days working our way back up to Puerto Escondido. Although we had a great time on the mainland, we're really happy to be back in the Sea of Cortez. Sure, the wind is capricious in the Sea, but the anchorages are spectacular and the marine life is fantastic. One of the benefits of the Sea's typically calm water - besides a good night's sleep at anchor - is being able to better see the dolphins, whales, and turtles. Our plan is to hang out in the Middle Sea - including the Loreto Fest during the first weekend in May - for six weeks before we bash home to the Bay Area. Speaking of Loreto, some 'Nautical Stairway' bucks must have landed there, because they've installed three finger piers in the panga marina. Two of the finger piers are long enough to accommodate 40-ft boats, and the crew of Martha Rose reported on the local net that the approach and entrance had at least 8.5 feet at low tide. We don't know what they charge or if any services are available, but there was a 22-ft sailboat and a 30-ft powerboat tied up the day we went by. We're just not sure if this is 'progress'.

"Knowing your respect for Eric Hiscock, we took a photo of his old Wanderer V, which was berthed next to us at Vuda Point Marina in Fiji last fall," report Steve and Jamie Sidells of the San Francisco-based Celestial 48 Reba. "The Hiscock's old boat is now owned by Andy Hobbs of the Auckland area. He was very interested to learn that the publisher of the famous Latitude 38 uses 'the Wanderer' as his pen name. Following the tragic events of last fall, and our recent lengthy and delightful travels in New Zealand and Australia, we now plan to remain in the South Pacific, centered around Fiji, for the foreseeable future. Life in this part of the world is great!"

The 'Wanderer' pen name was the result of a 'Bay Wanderer' series of articles about sailing on San Francisco Bay, followed by some 'World Wanderer' articles about sailing elsewhere. After a while, the two-worded nom de plume seemed clumsy and confusing, so it was shortened to The Wanderer. We don't mean any disrespect to the Hiscocks or Sterling Hayden, all of whom were far better sailors than we. Frankly, we're embarrassed that it turned out this way.

"It was interesting to read in 'Lectronic that the Rakelly family aboard the Cascade 36 Voyager had only 17 hours of wind on the nose in the Red Sea, and that at least two other boats - Sea Glass out of Dana Point and Star of the West out of Auckland - sailed all the way up the Red Sea with fair winds," writes Charles Wagoner of the Norfolk, Virginia-based Ranger 28 Abaris. "I just received an email from Glenn and Paula Richardson of the Deltaville, Virginia, based Tayana 37 Pura Vida, who left on a circumnavigation in November of '97. I crewed with them in the Caribbean, Tahiti, Fiji, and Oz, and they've now made it as far as Ras Banas, Egypt. They report that unlike the above-mentioned three boats, they've had a hard beat up the Red Sea with many delays to wait out bad weather. So they and others have been getting the normal Red Sea treatment. By the way, the Richardsons stopped at Eritrea to have a pump repaired, and really enjoyed it. They also stopped in Sudan to wait out weather and get an alternator repaired. Glenn is a surfer who has been taking advantage of every opportunity to hit the waves.

Jim and Mary Haagenson, who recently completed a circumnavigation aboard their Glen Cove (Vallejo)-based Force 50 Illusion, forwarded some bad news from Wattie and Jill Springs, a Kiwi couple who had been heading north in the Red Sea aboard their 41-ft Cariad. "Hullo everybody. Not good news, as we ran on a reef at El Qesir just south of Safaga in the Red Sea. She was towed off, but leaked. While being towed, she sank to the cabin top - although to everybody's surprise, no further. So she's sitting off the wharf awaiting the next move. We are very tired, after sleeping only two of the last 36 hours. Sorry we have not been in contact, as there hasn't been any opportunity to communicate since Massawa. We've not enjoyed this stretch much because of headwinds that have been strong at times. I'm contacting my son to come out and help us. Wish us luck."

"We passed the same spot last year during our circumnavigation," report the Haagensons, "and it's very desolate. We completed our trip around in January, and have moved back to land. Illusion is for sale in Fort Lauderdale."

There are differing reports on what kind of boat Cariad is, The Haagensons describe her as a "41-ft fiberglass sloop", while Tony Johnson aboard Maverick said she was a "40-ft lifetime labor of love in wood". In any event, at last word the good news was that she was on dry land and being repaired.

Judging from all the reports we've gotten, there haven't been any problems between Muslims and cruisers since 9/11. But Wendy and Hall Palmer of the Palo Alto-based Beneteau First 53f5 Relativity, currently in Kemer, Turkey, met a couple who had a problem before 9/11. "A couple of our dockmates here at Kemer are Brits Peter and Shirley Billing, who arrived here via the Red Sea last year aboard the 35-ft ferro cement ketch Clypeus. During their transit of the Red Sea, the Billings - who are in their 60s and are doublehanding their boat under challenging circumstances - were arrested in Eritrea by government and paramilitary forces and charged with spying. Their story is a very interesting one in many ways, and Shirley has just completed a book about it called Red Sea Peril. At the very least, it's a good read, and is not to be missed by anyone planning a Red Sea transit. The book sells for $11.45 and is available from Amazon.com."

As for their own adventures, the Palmers had this to say: "We're here in Kemer, Turkey, where the Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally is scheduled to start in less than a week. The recent unpleasantness in the Middle East, combined with a slower economy, has reduced the fleet to 37 boats - although there may be additions or dropouts in the next few days. Hasan Kacmaz, the manager of the Kemer Marina and spark plug of the rally, is characteristically upbeat and going ahead full speed with all arrangements. We're still on board for the event - despite some insurance issues that we are trying to finesse with a second policy through a British agent. We'll evaluate each leg of the rally as news and experience indicate. Nonetheless, Park Kemer Marina has been fantastic! In our absence, they obtained all new leather upholstery for our main cabin at one-third the cost quoted in France; installed a new dodger, bimini, and anchor windlass; and fixed our engine-driven watermaker and SSB. And all at minimal cost. It is amazing that things have worked out so well, given our total inability to communicate in Turkish. We are so pleased that we have already paid to winter over in Kemer again. We'll be returning to the States in July to look for a Florida winter home, then return to sail in Turkey for August through October. In late October, we'll put the boat on the hard again."

As bad as the Baja Bash may have been this year, some cruiser trips up the Red Sea were even worse. Terry Johnson of the Richmond-based Ericson 39 Maverick reports from Egypt: "The mechanical problems we've been faced with have kept us pinned in Egypt, and this has had a dampening effect on the skipper's morale of late, as he sits in the marina crankily growing his beard. Although the majority of boats have made it through the Canal by now with only modest difficulty, what follows are some examples of what has happened to some less lucky boats in the Red Sea. The Kiwi boat Achates was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm early in March as they headed up the Red Sea. Their VHF and autopilot were destroyed. Oceans Free, a British-flagged 71-footer some of you will remember as having lost half her rudder and keel as a result of a grounding at Batam, Indonesia, is finally through the Suez Canal - but at a price. The boat had to be hauled a second time in Malaysia after the stern gland failed at sea, causing such serious flooding that some furniture had to be torn out to get at the leak. The boat made it to the harbor after some scary hours, but Captain Peter and his wife Lynn decided they'd had enough, and hired a delivery crew to make repairs and take the boat to the Med. Once through the Suez Canal, however, the boat suffered another problem when the engine failed during a gale on the way to Malta. When last heard, they were becalmed and without power. The engine of Grace, flag unknown, malfunctioned and cannot be repaired. They have considered putting the boat in a container here at Safaga, Egypt, and having her shipped to the Med for repairs. Another possibility is sailing to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to install a new engine. Saudi Arabia can only be visited in an emergency, and this might be stretching the definition. The vessel Northstar has found diesel entering the engine oil at about a liter and hour, suggesting broken rings, and is attempting to sail to Safaga for major engine repairs. Chamois, a French or French-Canadian boat, hit the reef attempting to enter an anchorage after dark with two other boats that made it. She couldn't be kedged off, and had to be abandoned by her owner and crew. At last report she is still on the reef and salvage attempts have not been successful. A steel French boat of an indeterminate name has gone on the reef between here and Suez, presumably as a result of her anchor dragging, and cannot be salvaged. The owner of the large catamaran Bohay was killed in an accident while attempting to remove the rig from his boat in Phuket, Thailand. He was detaching the rigging wires at the masthead when the pivoting spar, which had not been adequately supported, fell to the ground. He died a few hours later at the hospital. The boat was sold to a German couple by his widow, and they made it to the Bab Al Mandeb at the bottom of the Red Sea, where they suffered a dismasting in 50 knots and rough seas. Although there were no serious injuries, they issued a Mayday, abandoned the boat, and were rescued by a German navy helicopter. The boat was taken in tow by a Chinese freighter, and a rendezvous was scheduled with a tug that would take the cat into a Yemenese port. When the freighter arrived at the rendezvous spot, the tug was not there. The owners of the shipping company instructed the captain to cut the boat loose to maintain his schedule. About a week later the boat was found, but all gear had been stripped. But we've yet to hear of any problems caused by pirates or political activists."

"We just returned after a month in New Zealand enjoying sailing aboard Robert and Kim Milligan's new-to-them J/130 RAM," write John and Debby Dye of the Channel Islands-based Islander 41 Lovely Rita. "John and I were amazed at how well the boat sails in both light and heavy winds. For example, sailing back from an overnighter at Kawau Island, we had about seven knots of wind, but with the chute up were able to sail along at 6.5 knots. When we left Great Barrier Island for Gulf Harbor a couple of days later, the wind increased from 25 to 42 knots over a three-hour time span. Despite the water breaking all over the boat, she handled it well and we were doing 6.5 to 8 knots. We actually decided to return to Great Barrier Island, as Robert didn't want to risk breaking anything, but he knows the boat responds well to rough weather. He's now taking care of all the leaks in preparation for the mad dash for Fiji. John and I feel lucky that we live in the Channel Islands area, where the wind and anchorages are the best. But after a month of sailing in New Zealand, we feel that Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel Islands have met their match. There are many anchorages in this part of New Zealand, and the water is so flat you tend to forget that you're on a boat. In addition, the hiking is incredible, with varied vegetation and funny looking animals. But the people talk funny. We hope to return for a third time before too long. By the way, while sailing on the Hauraki Gulf, you always see America's Cup boats."

"We recently returned from Bahia de Careyes, where we celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary - and our first anniversary of cruising," report Jerry and Mary Anderson of the San Francisco-based Hans Christian 33 La Sirena. "We anchored in front of the Bel Air Hotel, and were welcomed like first class guests by the staff. In fact, they set up a special table for us on the beach overlooking the bay. They brought out torches to light the evening, and a little furnace with coals to ward off the evening chill. We had an excellent meal while watching the sunset. Our every need was attended to by the wonderful staff, and was topped off by a delicious chocolate cake with "Feliz Aniversario" written on the top. It was absolutely one of the most memorable moments of our lives."

We didn't get much of a report on this year's Loreto Fest, held in early May at Puerto Escondido, Baja. Blair Grinols of the Vallejo-based 46-ft catamaran Capricorn Cat did, however, provide a weather report. "It's cool here, as the high was only 78° yesterday and it got all the way down to 65° last night! The water temperature varies from 70° to 73°, which is too cold for me. Give me the 80+ degrees at Z-town any day. By the way, Maureen on Alouette de Mer was on the radio this morning from down in Z-town, and says it's still nice down there."

We also got a short report that the Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, thanks to a near time conflict with Loreto Fest and nobody really being in charge until just before it started, was down to 35 boats for what we believe was the 20th anniversary. Those who did attend, however, apparently had a great time.

"I had a wild thing happen just after we left Loreto Fest that really had me scratching my head," Grinols continued. "I had earlier jumped in the water and cleaned the raw water intake holes for my sail drives. But as we were later motoring along, one engine overheated because there wasn't any raw water flow. I figured that perhaps a bunch of 'stuff' had broken loose during my cleaning and plugged the strainer, so I cleaned it again. I still got no water. So I took the intake hose off and blew through it, and finally got good water flow. After a few minutes of running the engine, however, the water flow ceased once again! So I blew through the hose and got water flow once again. Meanwhile, I had started the other engine to keep us underway - and soon it over heated! I shut it down and continued working on the first one. After about three times of removing the hose and blowing it out, I took the intake system apart. What did I find when I took the inlet valve clear out? The remains of what I believe was a hermit crab! He had been in there so well that I had to dig him out with some needle nose pliers - with water gushing into my engine room the whole time. This was no problem, as the bilge pump took care of it. Anyway, what do you think I found blocking the raw water intake on the other engine? Yep, that little crab's brother! All I can figure is that they crawled into the intakes via the sail drives when they were small, then grew up inside. I guess my cleaning broke them loose from whatever they were clinging to, and were just floating around in there - until my starting the engines would suck them into the inlet valves! Ain't boating fun?"

One of the familiar faces we saw at our Circumnavigator's Ball at Sail Expo was Bill Chapman, who had done a circumnavigation aboard his and his late wife Diana's Stockton-based Swan 47 Bones VIII. When we asked what he was up to, Bill introduced us to Angela, the new lady in his life, and reported they were leaving for French Polynesia in the first week of May. We had hoped to contact them before they left for further details, but were regrettably overwhelmed by the show and deadlines." Bon voyage!

Whatever happened to Big O, the Ocean 71 ketch that we owned for so many years and sailed between California and the Eastern Med? We sold her in St. Barts five years ago to Canadian Tom Ellison, who had been doing charters in the Pacific Northwest for 20 years aboard a series of progressively larger boats. That's all we knew until John Neal of Mahina Tiare sent us the following message: "Tom reports that he's had Ocean Light, formerly Big O, in the shed for months, stripping and repainting everything - including the mast. He says they are sold out again for their entire season - which is 22 sessions between May 10 and October 4. Sarah, who was just a month old when Tom and his wife came down to the Caribbean to pick up the boat, is now five!" Twenty-two sold out sessions a year with nine guests each session - we're impressed! We're also delighted that the old girl is being so well taken care of and bringing pleasure to so many people. Check out the Ocean Light website at www.oceanlight2.bc.ca/boat.htm to learn about their unusual 'bear' - not bareboat - charters.

Given the trouble folks had bashing home from Mexico this year, it's hard to imagine anyone getting excited about going back this winter. But we are. Here are events we're looking forward to: 1). Baja Ha-Ha, October 28 to November 9. 2) Sea of Cortez Cruiser Clean-Up? November? 3) Banderas Bay Surfing/Sailing Week, early December. 4) Zihua SailFest, late January or early February. 5) Punta De Mita Spinnaker Cup For Charity, March 19. 6) Banderas Bay Regatta, March 20-23. 7) Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, early April. 8) Loreto Fest, early May. Hope to sail with you at all of them!

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