June, 2005

With reports this month from Viva on years of cruising in the Caribbean; from Adagio on building a cat in New Zealand; from Pura Vida on carrying weapons while cruising; from BINGO Tambien! on a replacement Catalina 42; from Delphinus on trying to save a doomed yacht on a reef in the Caribbean; from Flashgirl on finally heading to the South Pacific; from Content on Ecuador; and enough Cruise Notes to fill a lazarette.

Viva - Grand Soleil 39
Steve & Pam Jost
5.5 Years Cruising The Caribbean
(Antigua, West Indies)

We just received the latest Latitude here in the Caribbean, and were sorry to have missed the Ha-Ha Reunion at Strictly Sail in Oakland last month. We did the second Ha-Ha in '95 - in fact you borrowed some of my photographs to illustrate your article. We did the fourth Ha-Ha in '97, and got the 'real' first place. But then we lost our transmission at Bahia de los Muertos a little to the north of Cabo, and ended up having to sail Viva back to San Diego. It took 30 days and introduced us to all the garden spots along the Baja coast.

Then in October of '99, we left California for a couple of years of cruising. Five-and-a-half years later, we're still here in the Eastern Caribbean, having done several trips up and down the island chain. Being an old diehard racer, I still enjoy jumping aboard boats for some of the local races. We even raced Viva to a first place in the inaugural Bahia Redonda Classico Regatta in Venezuela last year. But needless to say, I'm not allowed to race our 'home' very often. Here's an example of why:

During this April's Classic Regatta in Antigua, I skippered a friend's little 38-ft ketch. And unfortunately, our boat was involved in the only mishap of the entire great series. We were overtaken by a 55-ft schooner on the last race, hit on the starboard quarter, and lost the mizzen mast at the first weather mark. The collision cracked the bowsprit, mainmast, and caused considerable other damage. It took two protest meetings - which we won - and a trip to an attorney to get the DSQ'd boat impounded. Fortunately, this opened the door to a survey, appraisal, and subsequent settlement with their insurance company. But it was a pretty nasty introduction to yacht racing for the owner!

But I've done other great racing down here. In fact, I sailed aboard Doug Baker's original Long Beach-based Magnitude during the 2001 Antigua Sailing Week - along with Latitude's Racing Editor.

I thought you might enjoy the photo of my wife and me aboard the 130-ft J Class yacht Ranger while at the Antigua YC during the Classic Regatta last month. I ended up sailing aboard her as guest photographer for the Tuesday match race against Velsheda. Since the original Ranger and I were 'launched' about the same time, it was quite a thrill being aboard her during the race. Even with my old legs, I was given the run of the boat - as long as I promised not to fall overboard!

For further photos of our cruising adventures, visit our website at www.stevejostphotography.com.

By the way, we always enjoy the latest Latitude 38 - even though my copies are somewhat dated and dog-eared by the time they reach me.

- steve 05/09/05

Adagio - M&M 52 Cat
Steve & Dorothy Darden
Building The Cat
(Ex-Tiburon / New Zealand)

Although they've been gone for more than 10 years now - first supervising the construction of their 52-ft catamaran Adagio in New Zealand, and subsequently cruising her from Tasmania to Alaska - some Bay Area sailors may still remember Steve and Dorothy Darden. The couple, now 62 and 63, lived in Tiburon from '80 to '93, and raced their Santana 35 Raccoon Straights, and later their Beneteau 405 Adagio.

Had a boat-seller not been so hard-nosed about his price, they would have spent the '80s cruising Europe rather than living in Northern California. "We'd been residing in Virginia and sailing out of Annapolis," Steve remembers, "but in '79 we decided that we wanted to buy a boat and cruise Europe. After an intensive year-long search on both coasts and some of the Caribbean, we decided that a vintage 55-ft aluminum centerboarder that had started life as one of Ted Hood's famous Robons was the only boat that fit our requirements. We made an offer, but it was rejected."

Having not seen another boat they wanted, and not wanting to overpay, they said the heck with cruising to Europe and pursued another longtime dream - to live in Marin County. So they bought a Tiburon home that overlooked the Caprice restaurant and the Bay, with The City and the Golden Gate in the background.

A serial entrepreneur who has started successful businesses in everything from high tech to aspects of gas and oil exploration, Steve didn't take long to get another venture going. With their teenage daughter Kim then in school, it allowed Dorothy - an avowed "tree hugger" with a masters in environmental resources management with a specialty in ocean affairs - to join Steve as an integral part of the business.

"After a few months, the owner of Robon called us back to say he was ready to accept our offer," laughs Steve. But it was too late, for by then they'd resumed being workaholics. They would continue working hard for another 11 years."

Both Steve and Dorothy have loved the water and boats since they were kids. After they met, they raced small boats together extensively, with Dorothy on the foredeck. And they had their daughter out on the course with them before she turned four. The couple were so into sailing back East that they bought a hull and deck for a Kirby Half-Tonner, then finished her off at the distant Derecktor's Yard in Mamaroneck, New York. After a wild launch with a six-story crane late one Friday, they began to campaign the boat in Long Island Sound. It wasn't easy, as it required a 10-hour drive on Friday, racing on Saturday and Sunday, then a 10-hour drive back home to get to work on Monday.

"We were young and crazy," laughs Dorothy. "But we would have won the Half-Ton Nationals if the tiller extension hadn't broken - which caused a broach, which caused the mast to come tumbling down into the cockpit next to Steve. We still finished that race even though we only had a stump of a mast left."

When the couple was first married, they tried other activities such as golf and tennis, but neither brought them as much pleasure together as sailing. "People always ask us how we can work so well together," says Steve, "and I tell them it's because we've sailed so much together - and vice versa. If you learn to accommodate one another under stress, it's great training. And over the years it's just gotten better."

"I take great pleasure in our teamwork," says Dorothy. "I know what we're both going to do, and I trust him completely, no matter what problem needs to be solved. And I know he trusts me completely to do my job."

While they were living and working in Tiburon during the '80s, the couple's vacations consisted almost entirely of charter vacations. They did the Caribbean three times, Turkey twice, as well as the Pacific Northwest and Yugoslavia.

"We did a charter in the Leewards in '90 aboard a Privilege 39 just to see what cats were like," remembers Steve. "We picked the boat up in Guadeloupe, and had Dorothy's 75-year-old mother and her sister along for the whole trip. I remember being anchored off Saba one night, when the people on the monohulls around us were rocking and rolling so badly they couldn't sleep or eat - and we were just so comfortable. That made a big impression on us. And since we've been cruising, we've come to appreciate that, even when cruising, you spend 90% of your time at anchor or in a marina rather than underway. That means it's very nice to have a boat that doesn't roll at anchor and that has a large and comfortable living space."

"But we still weren't sold on cats because we were still concerned about the possibility they might flip," says Dorothy.

"Another significant charter was aboard a trawler we took to Canada's Desolation Sound," says Steve, "because it rained a lot and there wasn't any wind. That taught us the importance of being able to handle the boat from a place protected from the weather, and the importance of being able to motor without a tremendous amount of noise in the living area."

Having retired once again, in '92 the couple took a list of their boat requirements to naval architect Carl Schumacher of Alameda, who specialized in monohulls such as the Express 37 and Jim and Sue Corenman's Schumacher 52 Heart of Gold - which the Dardens had spent a week aboard in Fiji. Schumacher told them that while he could design them a monohull, their requirements really called for a catamaran.

Schumacher soothed some of their concerns about cats by saying all his family's sailing charters were aboard cats. Then he posed a question to the Dardens: "If worse came to worse, which would you prefer, a monohull right side up on the bottom, or a cat that was upside down on the surface? The Dardens decided that the latter sounded preferable. Schumacher said that he'd love to design them a cat, but typical of the class act he was, he said they'd be better off going with Morrelli & Melvin of Newport Beach, who are experienced experts with cruising cats.

The Dardens did go with Gino and Pete - and loved the experience. But they kept Schumacher on as a consultant. "Much of what you see here," says Steve, gesturing about the main salon, "is Carl's gestalt."

Not one to leave anything to chance, Steve spent countless hours doing CAD work on the design and systems. Furthermore, he and Dorothy mocked up the cat's entire main salon - a huge structure - in their Tiburon home using boxes and artist's foam.

Armed with a design, they shopped builders in the U.S. and New Zealand. At the time, the Kiwis had a huge advantage, as the New Zealand dollar was just 55% of the U.S. dollar, Plus, Kiwi labor rates were just two-thirds of those in the States. This was important, because 42,000 man-hours would ultimately be invested in Adagio before she was completed. By the way, this was three times as many man-hours as quoted by New England Boatworks.

Having talked to Cookson, Ian Franklin, and Ian Legge in New Zealand, the Dardens went with Legge, the only one willing to offer them a fixed price. This was a good thing, because the cat would take a surprisingly long 3.5 years to build. A full year was spent on the male molds alone. It helped that Legge had multihull experience. He and his wife had done a nine-year circumnavigation on a trimaran, and were in the process of building a Givens 50 catamaran for themselves. However, a French couple came along and bought her out from under them.

Legge was an attractive builder to the Dardens because he, like his father, is a master shipwright. For instance, when there was a trouble with the complex wood canoe stern of an ex-Auckland ferry, Legge was one of the few guys who had the talent to repair it elegantly.

The only downside about Legge is that he wasn't into hi-tech, as he was used to building his cats with strip-planked cedar and glass skins. That wouldn't do for Steve, who insisted on an engineered design using Core-cell with e-glass skins to create a composite structure. The Dardens brought Legge into the modern era of boatbuilding.

Wanting to be on hand for all the boatbuilding fun, Steve and Dorothy flew to New Zealand in '93 with 67 boat drawings, then settled at Russell in the Bay of Islands near the boatyard for the duration. Not content with just watching their boat being built, they bought a house, became Kiwi citizens, travelled the country extensively, and learned how to sportfish. In his spare time, Steve worked on boat systems, mocking up the anchoring apparatus in the backyard and installing the watermaker on the side of the garage for testing.

In her spare time, the adventurous Dorothy took the free training at St. John's Ambulance Society - and became a volunteer ambulance driver! Or, as they say in New Zealand, an 'ambo volly'. It turns out that 90% of the Kiwi ambulance drivers are volunteers.

Besides each other, the Dardens have three interests - sailing, travelling, and their home. Since Adagio was to be an inherent part of all three, they demanded nothing but the finest. For example, when pieces of the boat were being laminated, an aerospace monitoring program was employed for quality control. All the cloth, hardner and resin for each job was weighed, and then the waste was weighed, all to determine the exact weight as they went along. And records were kept of everything.

Fortunately, Legge was into it. "One morning we came to the yard and saw the crew carrying a really giant vacuum-bagged beam to the rubbish," remembers Steve. "When I asked Alan what was wrong, he said they'd checked a coupon for the filler, and it hadn't been mixed right, so they were throwing it away. A naval architect told me that most yards would have just painted over the mistake."

No wonder the boat took so long to complete. She was finally launched in 2000.

"She just jelled," says Dorothy.

"She's perfect for our needs," says Steve.

The planning and wait seem to have been worth it, as Adagio came out spectacular. The couple are particularly proud that she passes the 'pantyhose test'. You can wipe a pair of pantyhose on any surface in the boat - including the most remote and hidden areas - and they will never be snagged. The finish is that perfect.

Becasue Adagio is the couple's full-time home, they insisted on her being equipped with all the modern conveniences - 'mod-con's in Kiwi-speak - found in a home. Naturally, she's got air-conditioning and heating, a washer and a dryer, a dishwasher and dryer, an electric stove, two microwave ovens, a gelato-maker, electric toilets that use fresh water, a dimmer on all the lights, mattress warmers, a cinema-size computer screen - everything that you can imagine.

"It's my favorite home ever," says Dorothy, "because we designed her exactly the way we wanted her, and because she was built so well. She's the culmination of all the ideas we collected over the years, and all our work with the builder to have them implemented. She gets us where we want to go safely and quickly, she's easy for the two of us to handle, she's very light inside, and she's easy to maintain. And I'm delighted with the 360° vista from the main salon-galley. We just love Adagio!"

There was no skimping on the sailing equipment either. She has inside and outside helm stations, two 47-hp engines, two autopilots, two windlasses, roller furling headsails, an in-boom furling main, power winches - and you can even operate her with a joystick from four locations around the boat!

Not everything works right off on a complicated boat, of course. One of the bigger problems was the Rite Reef furling main. To solve the problems they were having reefing and furling it, Steve had something fabricated that looks just like a boom vang - but actually helps lift the boom just the right amount for furling the sail in any given wind condition. He calls it a 'hydraulic spring', and it utilizes compressed nitrogen and hydraulics.

The one bit of boatbuilding that wasn't perfect was the M&M-designed 12-ft catamaran dinghy. The relatively new building technique didn't come out just right, so she's a little heavier than they'd hoped. Nonetheless, she's powered by a 25-hp outboard and easily does 30 knots even when loaded down with scuba gear. She also handles seas well. "It's an expedition dinghy," says Steve.

Steve had a crane mounted on the arch in back, so the dinghy can be launched or retrieved easily without having to remove the outboard.

Having launched the boat in New Zealand, the Dardens sailed around New Zealand a bit, over to New Caledonia, down the East Coast of Australia, and to Tasmania - which blew them away. They stayed in 'Tazy' for 15 months, at which point a local told them, "If you don't leave soon, you'll never get out." They did the East Coast of Australia again - "a cruiser's dream" - then sailed back to Tasmania. In 2003, they sailed from Tazy to Nelson, New Zealand, then back up to the Bay of Islands for warranty work at the yard. Last summer, they continued on to Tahiti, Hawaii, Sitka, and then headed down the Inside Passage. After a winter at Bainbridge Island, they are now headed back up to Alaska. If it seems as though they don't spend much time in the tropics, they don't. Steve doesn't care for the humidity.

And what about Europe? If everything goes well, Adagio will finally be cruising the Med next summer.

- latitude 05/05/05

Pura Vida - Tayana 37
Glenn Richardson
Carrying Firearms Is A Hassle
(Deltaville, Virgina)

Thank you for sending our email address to Rod and Becky Nowlin of the Mahdi, who along with Gandalf had been involved in that shoot-out with pirates in the Gulf of Aden that you reported on last month. I'd tried to contact the couple, but only had their old email address. I'd met Rod and Becky at Sebana Cove Marina in Malaysia, where they nursed me through the malaria I'd contracted in Indonesia.

We had a similar experience to Rod and Becky about 250 miles east of Socrata when approaching the Gulf of Aden in February of 2001 aboard my Tayana 37 Pura Vida. We were chased by a boatload of fishermen looking for an opportunity to rob us. Fortunately, we were able to outmaneuver them. They were faster, but we could turn quicker and avoid them. Like Mahdi, we were armed and had the shotgun racked and loaded in the cockpit. We never showed it to our pursuers, however, because we didn't want to needlessly escalate the situation. Strangely enough, Rod and I had compared our shotguns in Malaysia, and had debated carrying arms on board when transiting areas prone to pirate attacks.

I have no idea how many pirate attacks there were on yachts in the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden area last season because we're out of the loop, so to speak. We completed our circumnavigation in early 2003, and are now working on the cruising kitty here in Virginia. However, it does appear that the number of attacks is increasing once again after the lull experienced during the lead-up to the second Gulf War. During the 2000-2001 time frame, there was a heavy military presence in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and I think this discouraged piracy to some degree. Apparently, this is no longer the case, since the military presence has been diverted closer to Iraq. What really disturbs me, however, is that based on Rod's story, the pirates are now shooting at people first, then robbing them. In the past, they usually just robbed them.

I also think that the apparent increase in piracy, coupled with the use of firearms by pirates, will definitely discourage cruisers from heading up the Red Sea next season. When we were in Thailand waiting to cross the Indian Ocean during more tranquil times - December of 2000 - our big debate was whether to head north through the Red Sea or south to South Africa. If you head north, you have the possibility of meeting bad people. If you head south, you know with absolute certainty that you will cross the Agulhas current, which is nasty, and expose yourself to the possibility of getting hit by a southwesterly gale heading to or along the coast of South Africa. We ultimately decided on the northern route because we wanted to see Egypt and Europe, and we didn't want to deal with the Agulhas current. We also thought the possibility of a pirate attack was fairly remote. Now you know why I'm not an odds-maker or bookie. Our luck did hold out, however, since we encountered a fairly slow and poorly maneuverable boat full of pirates off Socrota. 

If I had to do it again, I would probably go to South Africa because I've never been there, heard it's a great place, and have liked every South African I've ever met. If I ever went the Red Sea route again, I would never go solo like we did the first time. Based on Rod's experience, I think I would travel with a minimum of four or five boats, and sail directly down the middle of the Gulf of Aden to Djibouti or Eritrea. I know guns on boats is a hot-button issue, but I would also feel more comfortable with a few of the boats being armed with firearms and people who know how to use them.

Carrying firearms is an absolute hassle while cruising, and I would not carry them in most areas of the world - such as the Caribbean, where there are mainly sneak-thieves that take stuff off your decks at night. (Ever hear of 'Greasy Man' during your travels there?) However, if people are shooting at you first in an attempt to maim or kill you in order to get to your property, well, that's a different scenario altogether. Indeed, the only place in the world where I feel a gun is necessary is in the Gulf of Aden, and even then I wouldn't recommend carrying one unless you were prepared to use it like Rod did.

By the way, Latitude is a great magazine. I've been reading it for years and can tell you they were always cherished in every port we visited throughout the world.

- glenn 05/10/05

BINGO Tambien! - Catalina 42
'Bear' & Lynn Myers
Our Replacement Catalina 42
(Long Beach)

A little more than a year after we lost our original Catalina 42 BINGO Again! at Punta Perula, Mexico, we're back on the water with a new-to-us Catalina 42 we've christened BINGO Tambien! She was built in 1989, and is hull #111, which was 110 lower than our original Catalina 42. We took what insurance money we got from our last boat and opted for an older fixer-upper in order to get what we wanted.

We found this 'project boat' in Kemah, Texas, which is on Galveston Bay. It's been quite an experience getting her to the condition we wanted, but in the process we've learned a lot. Except for the hull, we've rebuilt most of her from the keel up - including the mast, rigging, heads, and so forth. It's hard to believe, but the exterior wood had never seen varnish or sealer. And we had to toss the sails, dodger, and bimini away and start over. The grand total of loose boat gear onboard was one winch handle. We are the fourth owners. The last owner lived aboard her for five years, during which time he put a total of 15 hours on the diesel. We will never have all the stuff on this Catalina 42 that we did on our last one, but some of that stuff we just didn't use. And other stuff we'll just have to do without.

Where do we go from here? For now, we'll do some sailing and racing out of Long Beach, where we have a slip. Bear still suffers from some anxiety while on the water, but it's gradually decreasing. When it's just the two of us, the anxiety is greater, as the Catalina 42 can be a handful if something goes wrong. But having said that, we've made two round-trips to Ensenada and have enjoyed both.

Our goal is to have the boat ready for the Ha-Ha in late October if we decide to go this year. If that's the case, we'd continue down to Puerto Vallarta to visit our friends and be cruisers again for a while. Meanwhile, we are busy with church, Kiwanis, family, the Long Beach YC, and just enjoying our home. We think that God brought us home for a purpose, and that purpose seems to expand day by day.

During the last month we were nearly overwhelmed getting our 'new old' boat ready for her first race. But it was worth it. We entered the Newport to Ensenada Race and took first in class, beating the second place boat by 23 minutes. The two of us were awarded a big trophy, and Lexus, the race sponsor, presented us each with beautiful insulated vests. So we've had a great start with this boat.

- bear & lynn 05/07/05

Delphinus - Mayotte 47 Cat
Randy Sparks, Crew
The Loss Of Surus
(San Andreas, Colombia)

On the morning of March 4, Bruce Swegler, the skipper of the Portland-based Delphinus, and I, noticed a boat with her sails up but not moving near the entrance to the harbor at Isla San Andreas, Colombia. We wondered about her, but went about our business because there hadn't been any calls on VHF 16. But while in town a short time later, we got a call from the Bogota, Colombia-based Vagabundo, telling us that a boat was on the reef that needed help. So we rushed back to Delphinus to change into shorts and grab our snorkeling gear.

We arrived on the scene to find Surus 2, a Jeanneau 12.5 monohull from France, listing about 30 degrees and getting her hull slammed against the reef by every wave. The Colombian Coast Guard was standing by, but couldn't get close enough to help because of the reef. But they did call a tow boat and offered the use of lots of 5/8-inch line.

Thanks to fellow cruiser Louise of Vagabundo and her dinghy, we could get right next to Surus - although the outboard prop got beat up pretty bad during the course of the day. The water was only inches deep around the stricken boat, and she was teetering between two big coral heads. I went into the water with my mask, snorkel, and fins to take to look around, and was joined by Louise. Bruce was going to have to deal with the dinghy all day.

We found that the boat was holed on the starboard side, the rudder was smashed and delaminating, and that the prop and shaft were bent sideways. There was a lot of debris inside the boat, and I could see the keel coming through the cabin sole with each wave that broke on the hull. When I removed the flooring, I could see that the stringers and ribs were broken around the keel joint - the boat's back was broken. Louise and I both concluded the boat was a complete loss, despite having been on the reef for only a few hours. Since nobody else was around, we put the sails away and straightened out the rigging on deck.

Finally, the boat's owner, a Frenchman named Raphael, showed up with a couple of locals and their launch. Then a tug arrived. Raphael was understandably frantic, and maybe in a bit of shock, because he still believed he could save his boat. At least we got him to accept the fact that they shouldn't try to pull the boat over the rest of the reef into deep water, but rather into shallow water. It was hard to explain because of the language barrier, but we finally got the message across.

While the tug was being repositioned, we attached a four-point harness to Surus, and got the line out to the tug - a much more difficult job than it might seem. The problem was that the coral was very jagged and the line tended to hang up. As soon as the tug started pulling, the line snapped. So we added a second line. Then both lines broke without the boat budging. By this time it was late, so we took a couple of boatloads of gear to shore and called it a day.

A couple of hours later at the Club Nautico, we got the full story from Raphael. He's a singlehander who had been out for four years. He'd been making the 500-mile passage from Cartagena, Colombia, to San Andreas. It had taken him three days and nights at sea, and he was exhausted. The day before, his engine had gone out, so when he got close, he repeatedly radioed for assistance. Obviously, his radio wasn't working, because we'd been monitoring 16 day and night and hadn't heard anything. So finally Raphael decided to try to sail into the harbor.

As usual, it was a string of mishaps that developed into the catastrophe. Raphael said he'd been watching his Navtec electronic navigation continually, and it indicated that he was inside the entrance by about 250 yards. But obviously he wasn't. Having not had a functioning engine or radio, and having been so tired, it's easy to say in hindsight that he should have anchored off until help arrived.

The next day, we removed all we could from the boat until the 85-ft tug showed up. This time the tow line was two inches in diameter. We set up a four-point harness, anchoring the ends to the two bow cleats and the mid-cabin cleats. By noon the tug had succeeded in dragging Surus off the reef - but not before breaking the mast at the step, ripping the starboard side of the hull, and practically breaking the keel off the bottom of the boat. The towboat then hauled the broken remains of the once-proud vessel over to the seawall near the container port.

Raphael was still confident that he could save his uninsured boat. It was late, so we called it a day once again.

In the process of lifting the boat out of the water and putting her on a truck the next day, the keel separated from the hull - and landed on the concrete with a loud thud. It was then that Raphael realized the boat was beyond help. He salvaged as much as he could, and that was it.

We don't think we or anyone else could have done a better job of trying to save his boat. Nonetheless, it was hard to see the effect the loss had on Raphael, who was four years into a proposed circumnavigation.

- randy 04/10/05

Readers - We know mistakes happen and to err is human, but we can't remember another three or four-month period in which so many boats have been lost. Please be careful out there. And if you're alone or doublehanding, watch out for fatigue, as it's a factor in many mishaps.

Flashgirl - Wylie 39+
'Commodore' & Nancy Tompkins
Finally Taking Off Cruising?
(Mill Valley)

After many false starts, Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins - with his wife Nancy - is leaving Marin after 50 years to cruise the South Pacific. At least that was the plan when we went out to Yellow Bluff to photograph the two of them departing on May 6.

We weren't surprised when he and Nancy were back in Marin five days later, for all along he'd been slated to return briefly to introduce renowned naval architect Ron Holland, who had travelled all the way from Ireland to give a presentation on the 247-ft maga-sloop Mirabella V at the Corinthian YC.

But then some uncertainty began to arise. Commodore told us he'd received a message from a gentleman sailing from Tahiti to Hawaii, who wanted his boat delivered back to California. Deliveries such as that have been Commodore's stock in trade since - well, since long before we started this magazine 28 years ago. And if Commodore were delayed by the delivery, it would make the South Pacific trip problematic, as it would then be hurricane season between California and French Polynesia. He and Nancy, despite having a boat loaded with food and other supplies, might have to wait until next season.

"If you're stuck here for the summer, you might as well just hang around and wait for the start of the Ha-Ha in the fall," somebody in our office suggested. Commodore, who had one heart attack years ago, looked as though he were about to have another. But he quickly recovered. "Right," he said with a wry smile.

For those not familiar with Commodore, he's done it all in sailing - except, oddly enough, been a commodore. He acquired the nickname when he was a baby aboard the Wanderbird, his parent's former Elbe River pilot schooner that had been built in Germany in the late 1800s. The way the story goes, his mother opened a drawer to reveal her son to a visitor, who exclaimed, "And this must be the commodore!" The nickname has stuck for more than 70 years.

Commodore is an old-school sailor, having crossed the Atlantic something like six times by the time he was four years old. There's great footage of him as a youngster using the decks of Wanderbird as a playground during a stormy rounding of Cape Horn in the documentary 50 South To 50 South. And he used to win bets by climbing hand-over-hand up shrouds to the top of tall masts. He's raced Six Meters for the St. Francis, ran a crewed charterboat in the Caribbean, driven maxi's in the Pan Am Clipper Cup, and delivered boats all over the world. He also enraged a lot of people by declaring the revered Cal 40 to be a "crummy boat".

Having sailed with most of the great sailors of the last 50 years, more recently he's dedicated himself to two big projects. The first was a long dissertation - after delivering our catamaran Profligate from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego - describing in great detail what is philosophically and physically wrong with our boat. It's a document we treasure as being 'pure Commodore'. His second big project was building the hi-tech Flashgirl from a hull and deck in Sonoma over a period of seven years. Although he's raced her to Hawaii, he's never really cruised his ultimate cruiser. But it would be a shame if he didn't do it pretty soon.

- latitude 05/09/05

Content - CT 41
Mike & Kathleen Raymond
Harry Arthur, Crew
(Santa Barbara)

I, crewman Harry Arthur, am sitting here at the nav station of the Content, listening to the water rushing by the hull. We're not underway, but are lying to a mooring in Bahia Caraquez, Ecuador, where the tide is ebbing strongly. The speed of the water is augmented by the flow of the Rio Chome, which was flooded by recent rains. Debris - in the form of logs, islands of river hyacinth, and mats of grass - rushes by on either side of our hull. There are about 30 other cruising boats here, all but one of them sailboats. Most are American or Canadian, but I can also see German, Swedish, Swiss and Danish flags flying from nearby backstays.

We left the Flamingo anchorage at the southern end of the Panama Canal in the last week in March, and spent a few days in the Perlas Islands, where we scrubbed the bottom, stowed the skiff on deck, and generally made ready for the passage to Ecuador. When we deemed the time was right, we upped anchor and headed south. We had light winds on the nose most of the way, so the diesel got a few hours on it during our five-day passage. We encountered a few squalls in the ITCZ, but that was the extent of our 'weather'. Mostly the autopilot did its job while we humans supervised. It was a pretty easy trip, which was good, as Mike was recovering from a recently broken wrist.

We crossed 'the line' on April 1 at 80 90.30W. Despite the fact that it was 4 a.m., we shared a toast with King Neptune, and asked for good sea conditions in his Southern Domain. He, in turn, welcomed us as 'shellbacks'.

We made our Ecuadorian landfall at Punta Pasada, and anchored in its lee off a coast that looked remarkably like my home cruising grounds - the Santa Barbara coast. It had the same striated cliffs and low, scrub vegetation. The only difference was that after dark there wasn't a light to be seen. At dawn the next day, we ran 15 miles down the coast to Bahia de Caraquez to enter the harbor on top of the flood. The entrance is heavily silted, and a pilot is required to navigate the twisting channel to the anchorage. We picked up a mooring maintained by Puerto Amistad, a gringo operation that is being built by Tripp Martin and Maya, his Ecuadorian wife. The clubhouse is coming along nicely, and the newly installed hot showers are a blessing!

A restaurant and bar is also in the works for Puerto Amistad, but for now the couple does a happy hour for the cruisers with beer, wine, and rum drinks. Maya makes pupus that are delicious, but different every night. It's a fun gathering place for the fleet, and lots of information is exchanged. Puerto Amistad also offers fuel services for a minimal fee, and they'll see that your laundry gets done, too.

We spent a few days in 'Bahia' - as it's called locally - to see how the moorings held and get a feel for security before heading inland for sightseeing. Satisfied the boat was secure, we took the all-day bus ride up to Quito in the Andes, where political unrest was already beginning to make itself felt. We only stayed in the capital for a couple of days, so we missed the riots that came soon after the elections.

From Quito we went north to Otavalo, then south through the Andes to Baños and Rio Bamba, enjoying some very exciting bus rides through the mountains! We returned to the coast at Guayaquil via Guaranda and Salinas. We really enjoyed the Andes, and Guayaquil, with a modern malecon, was a pleasant surprise. Returning to Bahia after two weeks, we found out it had been raining almost constantly since we left!

The rain was unusual for this time of year, but the fleet weathered it fine, with everybody topping off their water tanks from catchment. We are currently waiting for our cruising permit for the Galapagos. These documents are issued by the Ministry of Defense, and right now they are in the middle of all the political intrigue you may have been seeing on television. We will keep you posted - but right now it's happy hour at Puerto Amistad.

- harry 05/10/05

Cruise Notes:

"In your blurb on Vancouver in the
May 6 'Lectronic, you forgot to mention that in less than a day's sail in almost any direction from Vancouver lies some of the finest cruising grounds in the world," writes Katrina Archer of the False Creek, Vancouver-based Ganache. "I'm speaking of Canada's Gulf Islands, Washington's San Juans, not to mention Howe Sound, the Sunshine Coast and Desolation Sound. The West Coast of Vancouver Island is a great destination for those with more time on their hands. Yes, Vancouver is spectacular, but so is the nearby cruising!"

You have our apologies. Until we get some great shots of the cruising grounds, you'll have to settle for a sprinkling of the accompanying shots we took of Vancouver, Victoria, and the islands.

"We're now in Mazatlan, having returned from two years of cruising Central America, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean," report Duey and Nan Englehardt of the Moss Landing-based Catalina 400 The Great Escape. "We arrived the day after 'Lectronic posted the report that Mexico had greatly reduced the requirements for domestic clearing. Antonio Cevallas, Harbormaster at Marina Mazatlan, got on the net the same day to announce that there would no longer be any fees charged by the port captain's office. But how things were to work out was still unclear. Our paperwork in the marina office was gathered up and held for several days awaiting clarification from Mexico City.

"Two days later," the couple continue, "the local ship's agent stopped by our boat, papers in hand, to advise us that he needed our permission to 'process' our check-in. He also informed us that, while there was no longer a port captain's fee, he had reduced his fees to 200 pesos - about $20 each way - for checking in and checking out. We weren't leaving for a couple of days, so we decided to wait it out. A few days later, word came from the marina office that they would be keeping a log of the comings and goings of boats, and that no fees or paperwork would be required. That meant there was no need for us to go to the port captain, no need to go to Immigration, and no need to pay an agent $40. How long this will last is anyone's guess. We hear that different ports are handling things differently. We are headed to San Carlos and the end of our sailing adventure with this boat - but have hopes there's another Baja Ha-Ha down the road for us!"

It doesn't surprise us that the agent tried to squeeze a last $40 out of you, for it looks like their gravy train may soon dry up. It's been almost a month since you wrote, and things really seem to have stabilized in Mexico. Part of this is because there was a big meeting in Mexico City in late April of Tourism; the Merchant Marine - which controls port captains; and members of the Marina Owners Association of Mexico. At that meeting, Jose Lozano, Executive Director of the Merchant Marine, made it clear what the new rules were, and that they indeed had taken effect on April 19. Lozano also told Tere Grossman, president of the Mexican Marina Owners Association, that he wants to be notified if any port captains aren't in compliance with the new rules. So if anyone has a problem with a port captain, email , and we'll see that the complaint gets passed along to the right person. Make sure you note the time, date, port captain district, and other pertinent facts.

So let's review the current clearing procedures. When you clear into your first Mexican port of entry - most likely either Ensenada, or for Ha-Ha boats, Cabo San Lucas - you will need to clear in with the port captain to get your cruising papers, you'll have to go to Immigration to get your visa, and you'll have to go to Aduana to get your Ten-Year Temporary Import Permit. "Do not lose any of these documents," cautions Mary Shroyer of Marina de La Paz, "as they are as important as your passport." At your last port of entry in Mexico, you'll have to visit all these offices again.

What's new - and really fantastic - is that once you're in Mexico, you can go from one port captain's jurisdiction to another port captain's jurisdiction without having to do anything but 'inform' the port captain of your arrival and departure. If a port captain wants, he can require that you visit his office to 'inform' him. Pete Boyce of the Sabre 40 Edelweiss III reports that, on a trip from Zihua to Nuevo Vallarta between May 2-13, he was required to clear with the port captain at Barra de Navidad and Nuevo Vallarta. He paid the 'paperman' $20 to do it for him in Barra, while he did it himself in five minutes at Nuevo Vallarta. In neither place was there any fee by the port captain.

However, at most places we've polled - San Carlos, Mazatlan, La Paz, and Loreto - the port captains don't seem to want to be bothered. And why would they, since their office isn't getting paid for the work. So they are allowing marinas to keep logbooks of arriving and departing boats for them, and that constitutes 'informing' the port captain. Usually marinas allow tenants to sign in or out for free, but assess a small fee for anchor-outs. In some places cruisers believe they have checked out with port captains over the radio - although nobody seems to be sure if the port captain understood that that's what they were trying to do.

The bottom line is cruisers are now saving about $40 every time they clear in and out of a domestic port over last year - and may be saving as much as $110 when a ship's agent was required! When we suggested to Mary Shroyer that the new rules were the greatest thing ever to happen to cruising in Mexico, she disagreed with us. "The most important was the creating of the Ten-Year Temporary Import Permit, which was done about 10 years ago. Before that, it was illegal for foreigners to leave their boats in Mexico for more than six months, and owners couldn't legally leave the country without taking their boat with them. But these new clearing regulations are the second best thing to happen, and are really wonderful." As usual, Mary was right.

"Having cruised extensively in Mexico three times as crew on friends' boats, I am now preparing my own boat - which I bought in Mexico and sailed to the Bay Area - for an extended cruise in Mexico," writes Jamie Rosman of the Alameda-based Tardis. "As such, I've been closely following the status of the domestic clearing procedures in Mexico. Based on my experience, the old procedures - which were time-consuming, costly, and difficult - were the most disappointing part of the cruising experience. In fact, because of the old system, my wife and I have had serious discussions about limiting our time in Mexico to one year instead of two or three years before continuing on to the South Pacific. But based on what I've read in Latitude and 'Lectronic, we may stay in Mexico longer. I am very happy to hear about this extremely positive development."

Part of the reason the change has come about is that many in Mexico realize how important tourism is to that country's financial health. In fact, there's a new slogan - "Tourism Is Everybody's Responsibility". In the marine realm, the government is still trying to figure out how to go about refunding some of the taxes foreign boats currently have to pay for diesel, all to encourage more boats to come to Mexico. Hmmm, we're beginning to think there might be a lot of boats in Mexico this winter.

On May 19, the National Hurricane Center announced that Adrian - on the Pacific Coast down by the Guatemalan border - had been upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane. It sure was early for a hurricane in the Eastern Pacific, as the official season doesn't start until June 1. And rather than heading northwest and out to sea, Adrian headed northeast - directly toward land.

Eric, last name unknown, of Chickadee, boat type unknown, reported on the hurricane situation from nearby: "As I write this email, Adrian is pummeling El Salvador with sustained winds over 120 kph [about 75 mph]. I'm in Managua, Nicaragua, trying to get a bus up to El Salvador to check on my boat. Unfortunately, there is a state of emergency, so the buses aren't running in El Salvador. Thus I can only pray that my boat's anchor holds. I wasn't expecting a hurricane to hit while I took a week off to visit my wife Rosio and the kids in San Juan Del Sur, therefore my storm anchor is stowed in the bilge and useless. But there's no point in my worrying."

As for the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf Coasts, U.S. forecasters are predicting up to 15 tropical storms, seven to nine of them hurricanes, three to five of which would be major ones over 100 knots. The average season features 9.6 tropical storms, but in eight of the last 10 years that average has been exceeded. Last season was the most unusual, as Florida got hit by Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne, which caused a total of $45 billion in damage and which were directly responsible for 57 deaths.

"You may remember from last month's edition that we and Gandalf had traded shots with pirates in the Gulf of Aden," write Rod and Becky Nowlin of the Clinton, Washington-based 45-ft steel cutter Mahdi. "Well, we recently learned that about two weeks ago the crew of a commercial ship was taken hostage in the same area. The Marines put together a strike team to rescue them - but before they could, the shipping company paid the ransom. Talk about adding insult to injury! With the pirates having been rewarded for their hostage-taking, we can anticipate more of the same in the future. What we'd rather see is military vessels starting to escort yachts going through the Gulf of Aden. Scream like hell at your congressional representatives, and maybe someone will get off their backside and do something! Incidentally, our year started off quite exciting, too, as we were anchored at Nai Harn, Phuket, Thailand, on Boxing Day when the tsunami hit."

Speaking of that tsunami that killed an estimated 300,000 people nearly six months ago, did you know that about 25% of all the emergency aid materials sent from around the world are still sitting on the docks? Some suggest it would have been better to have sent cash. Are we too cynical in believing 90% of the cash would have wound up in the pockets of corrupt officials and petty tyrants? It's hard to know how to help effectively.

"We came through the Panama Canal on April 25 and had an excellent transit," report Joe Brandt and Jacque Martin of the Alameda-based Wauquiez 47 Marna Lynn, currently located at the Bocas del Toro, Panama. "Our transit started at 8:15 a.m. with the arrival of our advisor from Balboa. It ended when we exited the last lock at Gatun at 6 p.m. the same day. We had no additional charges beyond our $600 transit fee. We used Enrique Plummer, the moderately priced ship's agent, for our paperwork because we had some special time issues. But we know of other cruisers who did the paperwork themselves without a problem. But we're glad we used Enrique, as he did some extras for us - such as arranging for a slip at the Panama Canal YC. In fact, he was there to greet us when we finished our transit."

The last we heard, Enrique Plummer was charging about $200 - or about 40% of what the high-priced agents are charging. We think Plummer is very pleasant and capable, and so far has an excellent reputation among cruisers. For basic transits, we still like the taxi drivers, who help skippers around for about $50.

"I finally bought a catamaran of my own, a one-off Lock Crowther 38 I've christened Bobcat in Melbourne, Australia," reports Bob Wilson of Brisbane, California. "At present, I'm getting ready for a cruising/diving season on the Great Barrier Reef. Later, I'll cruise up through the Gilberts, Marshalls, Carolines and Marianas, before getting back to California in about three years. That's assuming I don't meet another blonde. One of these days I'll write about my experience of flying to Oz and buying and cruising a cruising cat."

J.R. and Lupe Dipp, of Guadalajara and Nuevo Vallarta, report that they've left Florida aboard their new-to-them Catana 47 cat Moon & Stars and are headed to Cancun, Mexico. "I love our catamaran," says Lupe, "she's the perfect size for J.R. and me, and we've given her a super paint job."

"We just had a wonderful four-day stop at Raoul Island, which is about 400 miles northeast of Auckland, and part of the Kermadec Islands Nature Reserve," writes Bill Hanlon of the Friday Harbor, Washington-based schooner Seaanhaka. "The swimming, surfing, diving, hiking, and sailing were all good. But it's also the site of the biggest feral cat and rat eradication program in the world. Some $1 million has been spent over several years in attempt to eliminate the cats and rats, which have forced much of the native bird population to move to smaller offshore islands. Five of Raoul's 35 bird species are unique to the island. But we've now moved on and are presently about 100 miles south of Minerva Reef - in the midst of doing the 'South Pacific Three-Step'. The Three-Step is a great way to do a passage out of New Zealand heading for the South Pacific."

Most Latitude readers are aware that there's a major feral pig eradication program underway at Santa Cruz Island in Southern California. Special 'eradicators' from New Zealand have been brought up to do the job. The rumor that PETA managed to cancel the proposed free Fourth of July all-you-can-eat Feral Pig BBQ at the island's Prisoners Harbor anchorage is apparently not true. In fact, there never was even going to be such a BBQ. So what exactly are they doing with all those free-range pork ribs anyway?

The April Latitude announced the First International Mazatlan Regatta, which turned out to be terrific fun for the entire sailing fleet here. Duey of The Great Escape crewed for Tony Evans on his Red Sky, and her rusty red sails were splashed all over the local papers for days. The division winners included Celtic Dancer of Ireland, Salty Feet of Mexico, and Red Sky of Canada. There were two great parties, music well into the night, and participation by sailors from six countries. The Marina Mazatlan staff and local cruisers put in a lot of work organizing the event, and we expect it to be even better next year."

"I'm helping my good friend Riley bring his Alajuela 38 Alouette de Mer from La Paz to Ventura," writes Bruce Balan of the Southern California and formerly Palo Alto-based Cross 46 trimaran Migracion. "We're hunkered down in Turtle Bay right now, as the weather has really ramped up and is supposed to stay that way for a few days. But let me tell you about the fuel situation here. Gordo's son, who owns the fuel dock on the pier, asked that I spread the word that they do have fuel, and that the illegal fuel barge is no longer allowed to operate. So we fueled up on May 8 by bringing the fuel jugs to the pier by dinghy. They filled them, and then lowered them back down to our dink by rope. Benjamin, the nice and brawny guy who works the dock, can lower a 63-liter jug down by himself without belaying it! We paid about US$2.65/gallon for diesel. The fuel dock is definitely doing good business today, as seven 50-ft plus powerboats have come through. Of course, you can still back down to the pier if you don't want to jerry jug it, but it can be hard with a sailboat. Although Alouette won her class in the 2000 Banderas Bay Regatta, she doesn't back down well. As for myself, I've changed my cruising plans. Instead of heading back to Mexico again with my boat right away, I'll be coming north to San Francsico and the Delta for the summer. Then I'll head south to Mexico in the fall.

Despite having 40% fewer boats than at last year's Loreto Fest at Puerto Escondido, Baja, the Hidden Port YC organizers were thrilled with the attendance. As you might remember, several months after last year's 140-boat turnout, Singlar, the Mexican company that got the contract from Fonatur to run Puerto Escondido, suddenly instituted very high fees for mooring or anchoring in the popular anchorage. The fees were so high that cruisers fled in droves, and it looked as though there might not be a Loreto Fest at all this year. But according to Jim Wilkins of the Wasilla, Alaska-based Beneteau 351 Priority, Commodore Ralph from Ataja managed to convince Fonatur/Singlar to reduce the fees to something fairly reasonable - like the current one peso/foot/day rate. It was low enough to bring a reasonably large contingent back to the Loreto Fest.

According to Jerry and Kathy McGraw of the Newport Beach-based Peterson 44 Po Oino Roa, things were more than satisfactory at Escondido. "Clearing in was easy. All we had to do was call Arturo in the Singlar office, who rents out the moorings and is a representative of the port captain, and we were checked in! For those who want to anchor or be on a mooring inside Puerto Escondido, the fee is about $4/day for a 40-ft boat. If you anchor outside the harbor at the Waiting Room or the small area by the dinghy dock, you pay API - the port authority - about $1 a day. Water was included with the mooring, but I'm not sure if that's also true for the Waiting Room. The guy from the API office can arrange for fuel, and they sell ice, phone cards, and they have a phone. There are now two stores within walking distance. One is about .75 of a mile away at the site of the rebuilding Tripui RV park, while the other is about 1.5 miles away. Both do laundry and have the basics - including some fresh food. From what we could tell, everybody was reasonably happy with the fee structure for anchoring and mooring in Puerto Escondido. The cost of a taxi to Loreto was 600 pesos for a round trip - which seems less than I remember from before. We took six in a van, so it came to less than $20 a couple. The weather has been beautiful here, with the air temps in the mid-80s and the water 73 degrees. Today we leave for Agua Verde for a few days."

Getting back to this year's Loreto Fest, Wilkins reports that, "It started with the traditional water and beach clean-up, which was the activity that created the event. Then there were shore games such as horseshoes, Over-The-Line baseball, and cards, plus workshops on weather forecasting and other topics. There were dinghy races, a kayak/dinghy parade, and a small regatta for the sailboats. But as always, the big focus of Loreto Fest was on the music. Every night was amateur night, with musicians from the fleet providing the entertainment. All the while, the yacht club sold beer, pop, and hot dogs for about $1 each." It wasn't the greatest Loreto Fest ever, but all things considered, it was a darn good one. And wait until next year!"

"My brand new Shuttleworth 70 catamaran My Way is finally 99% completed," reports Don Engle of Layfayette, "as there are really only odds and ends to sort out. She looks great. We hope to finish everything tomorrow and shove off from Auckland for the Great Barrier Island. The day after that, we'll sail to the Bay of Islands, wait until a current tropical storm pushes through, then head off on the 1,200-mile passage to Fiji."

When we pulled into Avalon about a month ago, it was dark, and we couldn't really see the face of the guy who came out on the harbor patrol boat. But when he said, "Hey, the new edition of my Boat, Dive & Fish Catalina Island is out," we knew it had to be author Bruce Wicklund. His is an excellent little book, with great maps, a list and location of all the many wrecks, diagrams of all the harbors, coves, and dive sites, descriptions of all the sea life, fishing and diving information - it goes on and on. It's a very nice little package, so we suggest that you don't visit Catalina without one! You can buy it at marine stores all over Southern California. By the way, Brian owns the beautifully restored 41-ft Bounty II Black Dolphin, sistership to the sloop that Latitude was founded on.

"We're still out here cheating death on a daily basis," report Steven and Roma Swenson, and youngsters Leif and Gage of the Seattle-based Hallberg-Rassy 46 Trinity. "We survived the Tehuantepec, and we're now at Barillas Marina in El Salvador, contemplating points farther south. We thought we'd ask you if you had any information or opinions on cruising along the coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica during the months of June to August. We're particularly concerned about the likelihood of lightning storms. Is it necessary to head further south or stay further north during the summer?"

We don't consider ourselves to be lightning experts, but it's our understanding that Nicaragua and Costa Rica get hit the most, and get plenty of rain. Going back north isn't a good option, unless you go all the way to the Sea of Cortez, because of the threat of hurricanes. If you don't mind a little jaunt, these days many cruisers are heading down to Bahia Caraquez, Ecuador, where the sun supposedly shines a lot, the people are great, and the cost of living is low.

Anybody with firsthand knowledge have better advice?

"We finally got some more details about the loss of Brit Malcolm Steer's 45-ft ferrocement yawl Anna of Brighton," report Randy and Lourae Kenoffel of the San Francisco-based Beneteau 50 Pizzaz. It's the story of one of the most mishap-filled passages that we remember. In fact, their troubles began before they even started:

"Malcolm and two crew left St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean on the approximately 1,200-mile downwind trip to Colon, Panama. Just prior to leaving St. Lucia, they had to replace the dinghy and outboard because they were stolen. Shortly after taking off, the two crew got sick. Then the headsail blew out. The main tore also, but they were able to repair it. When the generator quit, they used the engine to charge the batteries. But about halfway into the trip, the wind died and the prop shaft broke - so now they had neither propulsion nor a way to charge their batteries. After calling for assistance, they were surprised to get a response from a Russian ship. The Russian engineer rigged a towline to Anna's mast, then proceeded to tow them at 16 knots - a little more than the ferrocement boat's theoretical hull speed. "We have a schedule to keep," the Russians explained. With damage to the bowsprit and the mast-step caused by the high-speed tow, Malcolm finally cut the tow line. But by then the movement had already damaged their VHF antenna.

"We were anchored on Pizzaz in the San Blas Islands," the couple continue, "when Anna came to a stop about three miles outside of the East Holandes Cays. They were just sitting there in a dead calm on the morning of April 24, so Randy took the dinghy to see if they needed help. He offered to tow them to the famous Swimming Pool anchorage. Have you ever tried to push a 25-ton boat with a 15-hp dinghy tied to the quarter? It took Randy nearly four hours to move Anna the three miles to the anchorage. After several days of attempting repairs and getting suggestions - "why don't you mount your 5 hp outboard on the swim platform?" - from cruisers, they were semi-ready to go again. With the wind finally back up again on April 30, they took off on the 80-mile passage to Colon. As soon as they left, the wind died.

"Anna checked in with the Panama Connection Net on May 1, and reported she was in light winds 60 miles from the Canal. A day later, she still had 25 miles to go. We didn't hear from her the next day, so we put out a 'watch' on her. It wasn't until we got to an internet cafe that we learned Anna had been lost - we don't know how - on the breakwater leading to the staging area for the Canal. Malcolm says he's headed back to Great Britain - to buy another boat. But since the exchange rate is so favorable, he might also look in the U.S."

As for the Kenoffels, "We've been out cruising for 11.5 years now, and don't have any plans to move ashore in the foreseeable future. We love the cruising life." You might remember that they had both been in high-stress jobs just before taking off. In fact, Randy had a heart attack right after quiting work and just before setting sail. Here's the couple's Tip of The Month:

"Most surfers out here know about Mr. Zog's Sex Wax, 'the best for your stick'. We use the stuff all the time, but on our floorboards rather than on a surfboard. When you live in the tropics, and with 70% humidity, the floorboards swell and then squeak. A little Sex Wax along the edges does a fine job of keeping the boards quiet."

We're late in announcing this, but about six weeks ago we got the following report from Dobie Dolphin in Tenacatita Bay:

"The 37-ft sailboat Quest On, owned by Californian Dominic Regas and his wife, went on the beach yesterday morning at Tenacatita Bay. The couple had been snorkeling by one of the outer rocks in the bay when the wind suddenly came up strong from the south. A local panganero called to the couple to ask if it was their sailboat, but by the time they got to her she was already on the beach. The locals, along with some other cruisers, worked all day yesterday trying to pull her off, but didn't have any luck. At low tide she was just sitting there, but at high tide she slammed from one side to the other. But there doesn't seem to be any structural damage so far except to the rudder and prop shaft. I know the young couple, who were headed to Costa Rica, do have insurance, because they called their agent from my home in nearby Rebalsito."

Dobie emailed us later to report the boat had been pulled off and towed to Manzanillo. "The port captain in Barra de Navidad was useless, but the port captain in Manzanillo was extremely helpful. He came to the scene right away to check the situation, then gave the owner a list of salvage companies. Dominic had to wire half of the 80,000 peso fee to the salvage company's bank account, but they did get the boat off and to Manzanillo. By the way, the port captain in Manzanillo is Enrique Casarrubias Garcia, and cruisers in Mexico can reach him at 01-314-332-3470."

Funny, isn't it, that the port captain who is only a few miles from the scene of the incident doesn't do anything, but the port captain a couple of hours away rushes to the scene to see what can be done.

In early May, Scott Duncan and Pamela Habek, who are both legally blind, set sail from Paradise Village, Mexico, on the 2,800-mile passage to Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas aboard their San Francisco-based Valiant 32 Tournesol. The short-term goal of these Ha-Ha vets is to make it to Sydney by December. According to their spokespeople, "upon completion of that phase of their circumnavigation, Scott and Pamela will be the first visually-impaired sailors to successfully have crossed an ocean on their own." The couple are seeking to spread the message of independence to disabled children and adults - as well as to the greater non-disabled population. You can follow Scott and Pamela's progress by visiting www.blindsailing.com. And you can . They are very eager to get mail.

If you're looking for a swift cruising cat, Peter Johnstone has glowing reports on Cream, his new South African-built M&M-designed Gunboat 48. "We were plodding along at 10 knots upwind when the first gust hit. In seconds the GPS was showing 14.5 knots - upwind!"

On the downside, we're not sure how many buyers there are for cruising cats that easily lift one hull and sell for over $1 million. But we're sure there are some.

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