June, 2007

Missing the pictures? See the June 2007 eBook!

With reports this month from Penelope on several very long singlehanded passages; from Lily Mae on why there's no reason to be afraid of the Panama Canal; from Newport Beach on why it's a great place to visit; from Bette on the importance of preventing chafe; from Salt Whistle on a family's adventures across the Pacific; from Taj on taking 10 years to taste saltwater; from Aztec on San Blas and Mazatlan; from Fantasia on the 14-year-old being out-voted on the question of going to the South Pacific; and Cruise Notes.

Penelope - Samson C-Petrel 37
Dale Jennings
Singlehanded To Easter Island

I sailed beneath the Golden Gate on November 5 of last year, and arrived at Rapa Nui, better known as Easter Island, 52 days later. Thanks to the fact that I had to skirt a late season Mexican hurricane, I ended up crossing the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone about 600 miles further west than I had planned. I burned 28 gallons of fuel during the singlehanded nonstop trip, mostly to make some easting when it was calm.

I checked in with the 'armada' on Easter Island just before I arrived. They came out to inspect my boat and do the Customs thing. They did confiscate my honey, but said I could get it back when I left. The Easter Island officials didn't seem too happy that I'd followed the protocol as outlined in Chapmans, as I didn't fly my Easter Island courtesy flag until they finished clearing me in. Nonetheless, they gave me 30 days on the island.

Thanks to changing weather conditions and the fact you don't want to be on a lee shore at Easter Island, I had to do a bit of moving around the first week I was there. Eventually, I settled in for a period at the Hanga Piho 'Harbor', which is where the island keeps its rescue boat, a 34-ft hard-bottom inflatable, and the local fishing fleet, which consists of open 25-footers with big outboards. There were also three sailboats in the harbor, two of which are based out of Easter Island, and a third from Spain.

The only available place for me to tie up at Hanga Piho was against the seawall, which wasn't the best place to be. I hooked my main anchor to a large ship's anchor chain that runs along the bottom of the harbor, but also put out another four 5/8-inch nylon lines to various places on shore. Nonetheless, one line chafed through and another - tied by someone else - came untied.

While Penelope was tied up at Hanga Pilo, I took a tour of the famous moai stone monoliths, and did the other tourist stuff. But on the 16th, after I'd been there more than two weeks, I had to move my boat so that a small cruise ship could unload her passengers. I'm now anchored in front of Hanga Roa and working on provisioning for what I expect will be a 25-day passage to Robinson Crusoe Island, after which I'll continue on to Valparaiso, Chile.

Remote Easter Island is not on any cruising 'milk run', nonetheless, boats do call. An Aussie yacht was here for a week when I first arrived, and a Kiwi yacht just pulled in.

What's worked well for me so far? My Monitor windvane has been great ever since I put single blocks at the tiller, which stopped the control lines from chafing through. The radar alarm with an external buzzer, put together by the guys at KKMI, woke me up for all the ships, boats and squalls that came my way. My SSB radio kept me in human contact with everyone on the Amigo Net, Picante Net, 6-A Net, Southbound Net, and my good friends aboard Further up in Port Angeles. The folks on Further have been nice enough to keep my wife informed that everything was well with me. The raincatcher beneath my main has been great also, as I arrived with only 10 gallons less than I left with from San Francisco. My Air X wind generator and two 85-watt solar panels provided all the power needed to keep the radar and tri color working. I cooked 90% of my meals in a pressure cooker, which did the job faster and more efficiently than by normal methods. My Garmin GPS chart plotter let me see my true course - even though it was sometimes a pretty sad sight.

By the way, I built Penelope behind my mother's house in the San Diego area over a 10-year period in the '70s and '80s, and sailed her up to the Bay Area in '84. I got married, had kids, then we sailed her to Australia and back in the mid-'90s. Now the kids are grown and my wife has a career that doesn't allow her to take too much time off.

- dale 05/05/07

Readers - We're continually impressed at the incredible things that 'unknown' sailors such as Jennings do. Fifty-two days of singlehanded sailing on a homebuilt ferro cement boat. Brilliant. But that's not all. Dale's wife Tammi tells us that she visited with Dale for three weeks in Chile, and he's on his way back to San Francisco on what he expects will be an approximately 70-day singlehanded nonstop passage.

We're trying to think of other West Coast sailors who have done such long singlehanded passages. Bruce Schwab did it twice with
Ocean Planet in the around the world race, but that was an organized event. The only comparable passage that we can remember was that of Roy and Tee Jennings - no relation - of Inverness, who did something like a 70-day passage from Valparaiso to San Francisco aboard their Freya 39. Of course, there were two of them.

Lily Mae - CT-49 Cutter
Simon and Charlyn Anderson
The Panama Canal
(Las Vegas, New Mexico)

We bought our beautiful CT-49 center cockpit liveaboard in San Diego by mistake. What we mean is that our goal was to cruise the Eastern Caribbean, but it turns out it's more than a daysail from San Diego. As such, we soon realized that there were a number of challenges facing us before we could reach what was meant to be the starting point for our new life of living aboard:

Could we handle what is quite a large boat for a couple with our very limited experience? I had sailed dinghies in the past, but my wife Charlyn had all but never set foot on a sailboat before. What about crossing the dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec, and what were Papagayos? How on earth could we hope to cope with the seemingly impossible transit of the Panama Canal?

We've got short answers to the first questions. Yes, the two of us could handle Lily Mae, largely because she's such a brilliantly conceived design that she looked after us while we learned. And we learned in comfort by being part of the '04 Ha-Ha fleet. The Gulf of Tehuantepec was no problem, thanks to the excellent weather forecasting by Enrique, the manager of Chahue Marina in Huatalco. His forecast gave us five lake-smooth days in which to cross. As for the Papagayos, we didn't even notice them.

That left us with the big challenge of transiting the Panama Canal. Like most cruisers, we'd read articles, pamphlets and innumerable reports about doing it, the sum total of which led us to believe: 1) That it would be impossible to find any anchorage at the south end of the Canal, because the Panamanian authorities had arbitrarily removed "most" of the buoys at the Balboa YC. 2) That it was no longer legal to transit the Canal without employing an extremely expensive agent to deal with the very complex paperwork, the days of the friendly taxi driver/ helper having been consigned to history. 3) That it was no longer possible to rent the required long lines and wrapped tires for the transit. 4) That it was impossible to maintain the required minimum eight knots across Lake Gatun to avoid heavy fines. 5) That the huge movement of water in the locks would severely damage the hull of our yacht, as the concrete walls were now badly roughed up by the many years of use. 6) That, in any event, we'd have to wait for weeks to get a transit date. 7) That if we ever did make it through the Canal, we would find ourselves in Colon, a city so dangerous that we couldn't even leave the environs of the Panama Canal YC.

So it was with trepidation that we left the delightful Las Perlas Islands and set off across the bay towards the southern entrance to the Canal. Fortunately, we'd met some delightful fellow cruisers who had been based in Panama, who assured us that getting a mooring at the Balboa YC would be no problem. And right they were. Having negotiated our way through the mostly anchored fleet of huge freighters at the entrance to the marked channel, we arrived at the anchorage and called the wharf guys, "Muelle, muelle, muelle, aqui Lily Mae?" Without delay, a helper appeared in a water taxi, tied us up to one of many vacant moorings, and told us that the taxi service to the dock was free. So much for problem number one.

Our next bit of good fortune was to find that Peter and Nathalie of Nathape, old friends, were also moored at the club. They recommended that we contact Tony, the taxi driver they'd used during their time in Panama. Tony turned out to be an ever-smiling guy who knew everything there is to know about Panama City, where anything and everything can be found, how the paperwork shuffle goes, and who has access to the necessary 125-ft lines, tires and line-handlers. In short, Tony was The Man! We put ourselves totally in his hands, and he did not disappoint. In fact, having arrived only a few days before Christmas, we were even offered the chance to transit on Christmas Day! We settled for December 27, giving us time to catch our breath, find a new inflatable dinghy, restock the larder at the excellent supermarkets, and pick cruisers' brains about the upcoming difficulties.

Our new friends at the yacht club taught us the most useful lesson of all. Before attempting the transit, go as line-handlers on someone else's boat. This was great advice, resulting in a thrilling and completely incident-free practice transit with no worries about possible damage to Lily Mae. As well as the opportunity to learn firsthand exactly what - and equally important, what not - to do to prepare for and execute a safe passage. So here are our recommendations for a south to north passage, which will take away all the stress, and allow you to get the maximum enjoyment from using one of the modern world's great wonders:

1) Moor at the Balboa YC, no reservations needed.

2) Immediately contact Tony at 228 0721. He bases out of the TGIF restaurant next to the yacht club. Have Tony take care of all the paperwork and make all the arrangements for you. He will start with Immigration and the Cruising Permit, approximately $100, and take it on from there, including lines, about $75, and tires, $2 each - although you may be able to get some free from boats that have just transited the other way. Tony will book a transit date for you, but unless you're in a great hurry, give yourselves at least 10 days to buy groceries, spare parts, take a sightseeing tour with Tony, enjoy the city, and most important of all, to find other cruisers as line-handlers.

3) The transit charge is currently $650 for boats less than 50 feet overall, and $850 for those up to about 80 feet. Your boat will be measured, but don't assume that just because your boat is nominally 48 feet, that she'll measure out the same way for the Canal. Lily Mae is 48' 11", but, what with the anchor and other immovable bits at the blunt end, we could not make her less than 50' 2.25" - despite trying four times! A budget of $1100 or so for boats less than 50 feet, and $1300 for those like us, should cover everything,

4) When on your 'practice' transit, note everything that happens.

5) Sign up four - the legal minimum number - of line-handlers from your new friends at the club. In desperation, Tony will provide professionals - local layabouts - at $60 each. Hopefully at least one person has done a transit before.

6) The authorities will tell you to be ready at about 5:45 a.m. on the day of your departure. You then call the Canal on VHF, and they'll tell you when your Advisor will be dropped off. In practice, this is seldom before 8 a.m., but you have to go along with the rules. Don't let go of your mooring until they call you back.

7) Provide a good breakfast for your crew, and especially the Advisor. We served fresh fruit, a baked egg/ham dish, assorted rolls and muffins, as well as hot and cold drinks.

8) Remember that your Advisor has done this a thousand times before, and that his advice and instructions should be followed without question. Remember, too, that he has no legal responsibility for the safety of your boat. That remains with the captain/owner. A conflict of interest? Yes, probably.

9) When in the locks, make all your movements with determination. Remember that you are the captain and that the crew are just that, not guests along for the ride. An overcautious or sloppy crew can be a recipe for damage or disaster.

10) It's very hot in the Canal, so have plenty of nonalcoholic drinks on ice, and let everyone know they are welcome to them. Food is important, too. We were told that not long before, a French boat made the transit without providing any food. Not only did the Advisor phone an extremely expensive caterer and have lunch delivered to Lake Gatun, but he also imposed a $300 fine!

11) Don't worry too much about being able to maintain eight knots across the 28-mile-long lake that makes up most of the Canal. Your Advisor will make you push, but we haven't heard of anyone who missed the next lock from being too slow. We averaged just over seven knots.

12) Once you arrive at the Caribbean side, your Advisor will be whisked away on a pilot boat.

13) Dock at the Colon YC, break out the champagne, and release your crew complete with a sandwich to get them home. It's probably after 6 p.m., and it's your responsibility to get them back to Panama City. Do not rely on the bus service. It's better to take a taxi from the marina or, as we did, arrange for Tony to come over and pick up your crew as well as his lines. Dump your tires on the dock, because they'll be gone by morning.

14) If possible, stay the night at the club, as you'll be tired. If there's no room, just motor five miles to The Flats and anchor there. The following morning make contact with Tony's opposite number, the great Stanley (447 0065 or cell 6680 7971). He will escort you round town and help with zarpes and Immigration if you are leaving the country.

Enjoy the experience -- it's likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime!

For those transiting north to south, the experience is somewhat different, as transit times start at about 4 p.m. and involve a night spent at anchor in Lake Gatun. However, if you start with Stanley for all the paperwork and finish with Tony, you are still likely to have as satisfactory an experience as we did.

- simon 04/15/07

Newport Beach
A Great Summer Destination

No matter if you're out-of-area folks who will be cruising around Southern California for part or all of the summer or among the many who will be heading down to San Diego in October for the start of the Ha-Ha, we're going to give you three good reasons why you should consider making Newport Beach your base for at least part of the time.

1) An all but unlimited number of moorings for just $5/night.

2) An all but unlimited number of moorings for just $5/night.

3) An all but unlimited number of moorings for just $5/night.

There are, of course, some limitations and restrictions on these moorings. For example, reservations are not accepted. Nonetheless, they have many vacant moorings, and we've never known anyone who has had to be turned away. You have to stop at the Orange County Sheriff's guest dock to sign up and possibly have your boat inspected to make sure it's seaworthy and won't be an abandoned derelict a week later. Boats can stay for five days, and quite possibly get two more five-day extensions, for a total of 15 days in any 30-day period. But the most unusual requirement of all, is that even if you're staying for longer, you can't pay for more than five days at a time, and you have to pay in person. This is only a minor annoyance if you're going to be on your boat all the time, but if, for instance, you have to return home to Northern California for a week, you need a friend in Newport to pay for you.

Once you're checked in, you'll either get one of the five single moorings near the Coast Guard station, or be assigned a double-buoy mooring between the Coast Guard station and the Pavillion. There are facilities near the dinghy dock by the Coast Guard station. They're not luxurious, but they are free, cleaned regularly, and have always worked when we've needed them. The shower does have hot water, but we still can't figure out why the shower head is only high enough for an eight-year-old.

It's actually unfair to focus primarily on the fact that Newport is able to accommodate an almost-unlimited number of transient boats and at a great rate, because Newport has a lot of other stuff to offer. For instance, with a harbor that's a little over three miles long and about .75 miles wide, and is home to 10,000 boats and 1,200 docks, there's lots of exploring to be done by dinghy. You'll see every kind of boat imaginable and some swanky waterfront digs. And thanks to dinghy docks scattered around the harbor, on some sides of which you're allowed to tie your dinghy to for up to 12 hours, it's easy to get to shore for other activities. Some of the fun things to do include walks or bike rides along the beach, through 'downtown' Lido Isle, and over on the Balboa Peninsula. The Newport and Balboa Piers are both worth a visit, and it's a nice mile-long, people-watching beachfront walk between the two. If there's a hurricane blowing in Mexico, you'll want to visit The Wedge, actually the west side of the west breakwater at the entrance to the harbor. You'll get ultra front row seats to some of the world's wildest bodysurfing.

In truth, just sitting on your moored boat in Newport Harbor can be plenty entertaining, as during daylight hours and busy summer nights there are almost nonstop parades of sailboats of all sizes, fishing boats, mini-megayachts, sportfishing boats, kayakers, the ferry to Catalina, sea lions, boats racing and so forth.

Given the 10,000 boats, Newport Beach is naturally home to every kind of marine product and service known to mariners. And virtually all of them are located next to the water or within close walking distance. In addition, the County Sheriff's department has always been a big help. If you're trying to tie to bow and stern moorings in a cross breeze with a strong current, you'll appreciate their help. And if you request help, they try to give it to you.

Newport is also convenient for having friends fly down for a trip out to Catalina, as Southwest's flights from Oakland to nearby John Wayne Airport are frequent and reasonably inexpensive. As for Catalina, it's only 31 miles to Avalon. For those wanting to sail to Catalina, it's usually best to motor eight or so miles up the coast to Huntington Beach, where there is usually a stronger and more reliable afternoon breeze.

Where to eat? Our favorites are El Faro, the Italian restaurant up at the very west end that stays open late. But it's quite a hike, so if you didn't bring a bike, you might cab it. The Thai restaurant near the Balboa Fun Zone isn't bad, and Hershey's Market on Balboa Island makes a great ahi sandwich for about $7. We use a Verizon card to get internet access on the boat, and that works well, but we'd be surprised if you can't borrow wifi signals from one of the many homes in the area. If not, there's Starbucks on Balboa Island. There are also two West Marine stores on PCH in Newport.

Like all of coastal Southern California, Newport is subject to the June gloom. Indeed, it's often warmer in San Francisco than Southern California coastal cities during the month of June. July is usually better, while August and September are prime time. September is usually the best time of year, as the kiddies are back in school and the air and water are often the warmest.

Newport Beach - it's fun, and just seems as though it should be expensive.

- latitude 38 05/09/07

Bettie - Cascade 36
Bob Steadman and Kaye Nottbusch
Beware Of The Chafe
(Marina del Rey)

We recently had Claude and Clair, a Parisian couple off the yacht Wapeti, over to our boat in Roatan, Bay of Islands, for a few drinks. The French couple are delightful and speak English quite well, so we whiled away the hours telling cruising stories, discussing politics and generally having a great time. Eventually we said our good-nights, and they got back into their dinghy. It was blowing 20+ knots in the anchorage, but they made it safely into their dinghy and took off into the night.

Five minutes later they were back. Their boat was gone!

They didn't know, of course, when their boat had slipped her mooring, nor how far she might have travelled to leeward. Claude didn't have enough gas in his dinghy for an extended search, so he asked if we would help. Of course we could. Claude and I piled into our little dinghy and headed directly downwind. Because of the relatively strong wind, the waves were pretty big, so we had no trouble planing. In fact, we planed so easily that I had to be careful that I didn't flip the dink and give us an unscheduled swim. But with the motor screaming at full throttle and a full moon to light the way, we had one wild ride.

We eventually detected a little white smudge on the horizon. I reasoned that it must be Wapeti, for what else would be white out in that direction? Slowly we closed the gap and could make out her mast. When we finally caught her she was drifting downwind at close to two knots. In another half hour she would have been on the reef.

Claude boarded his boat and quickly started the diesel. After making the dinghy fast to her stern, we motored back to the anchorage. My guess is that Wapeti had drifted two miles downwind while the four of us had been having such a great time on Bettie.

It turns out that the big diameter line that Claude had used to secure Wapeti to the mooring had inexplicably chafed through. None of us can quite figure out how so much chafe could have occurred in so short a time. Anyway, no damage was done, and our French friends were reunited with their floating home.

- bob 05/05/07

Salt Whistle -- Cheoy Lee 53
The Malan Family
The South Pacific

Last year's Ha-Ha was a wonderful send-off for our family - Abby, 13; Hannah, 17; Matt, 20; and Sue and Justin, who are a little older - enroute from the Bay Area to Cairns, Australia. We loved the camaraderie, enjoyed spinning yarns with the other sailors, Hannah and Abby were stoked to have been given surfing lessons from the Grand Poobah himself, and Matt was in his element introducing the Baja revelers to rugby on the beach. It has been over 6,000 miles and seven months for Salt Whistle and her crew since then. We survived Cabo, loved La Paz, almost settled in Puerto Vallarta, saw in Christmas and the New Year in Zihua, languished in the pools at Barra de Navidad and the Acapulco YC, hiked volcanoes in El Salvador, explored Costa Rica, dove the fabled Cocos Islands, and were awestruck by the Galapagos.

Then there was the Puddle Jump - 3,000 miles from the Galapagos to Fatu Hiva, Marquesas. Our 17-day passage was fantastic until Day 12, when we blew out both our spinnaker and big genoa. On Day 13, the genset blew up. On Day 14 we saw the demise of our autopilot. On Day 15 we were just 300 miles out - and there wasn't any wind. The prospect of a whole 'Bay of Virgins', our Fatu Hiva landfall, may certainly have been a motivator for our 20-year-old son Matt, but the rest of us simply wanted the incessant rocking to stop.

That was two months ago. Since then we have hiked the world's third largest waterfall, which is in the Marquesas, snuggled up to 10-ft hammerhead sharks in Rangiroa, enjoyed cocktails with the ritzy at Bloody Mary's in Bora Bora, and much much more.

Salt Whistle is back in order - genset running, sails patched, transmission rebuilt, autopilot fixed and crew happy. We have just spend a wonderful but too short time in Aitutuki (Southern Cooks) with the friendliest people on earth, and are heading for Nuie, Fiji, Vanuatu and ultimately Cairns in Oz to dive the Great Barrier Reef. We plan on selling 'Salty' in Oz and taking the easy way back home to California in September.

There have been tough times for all of us, during parts of the trip, but it has been and still remains such an amazing adventure in so many ways. We've been keeping a photo journal on our www.mytripjournal.com/saltwhistleodyssey website, so if anybody wants to, they can join us online.

- the salties 05/20/07

Taj - Grainger 48 Cat
Peter Brown
Ten Years After

Last August, 10 years after construction started, we launched Taj, my Grainger 48 catamaran. Bringing the boat to fruition was one of the most difficult but rewarding things that I've ever done. Readers who are parents and/or boatbuilders will probably understand.

I'm originally from Berkeley, and was inspired - halfway through the '82 Singlehanded TransPac aboard my Olson 30 Gold Rush - to go cruising. So after the race, I bought a new Pretorian 35 from the factory in France. By the time I got to South Africa a few years later, I replaced Emerald City with Nepenthe, a locally built Norseman 400 catamaran. Unfortunately, she was destroyed by hurricane Luis when I got to St. Martin in '95. Realizing that FEMA doesn't offer trailers to displaced hurricane victims in the Caribbean, and being left with nothing but my papers, some underwear, and my four-legged cat Lucifer, I returned to the States. I eventually found my way to Pt. Townsend, where I attended the NW School of WoodenBoat Building - and got the very silly idea that it would be a good idea to build my own boat.

At the time, Dave Howell was in the process of building the Grainger 420 cat Freebird on Camano Island. I figured that I could profit by his experience. I then hooked up with Ken Lincoln of Olympic Boat Works in Pt. Townsend, who had built a number of Kurt Hughes mulithulls, and is probably one of the most sophisticated epoxy-composite multihull builders around. I started with Ken and a crew of fellow boat school students, one of whom accompanied me to Nevada to attend the Abaris Training in high-end composite construction and repair. I couldn't afford pre-preg and autoclaves, but we came away with a respect for what could be done and what techniques were practical for us.

Tony Grainger's plans were great. I'd gone to Australia to meet him, saw his designs on paper and on the water, and had confidence in him. Having previously worked with Alex Simonis in South Africa, who oversaw the construction of my first cat, I feel lucky to have been able to observe the construction and design skills of these two great multihull designers. We rarely had to call on Tony for guidance, but when we did, he was 100% there.

Over 10 years of building, I worked with some of the finest men and women I will ever know. They egged each other on trying to build the finest, most beautiful boat they could. They drove each other nuts - and me, too, - but none of them ever gave anything less than their best. When I had money, there were as many as five people on the crew. And when I didn't have money, there were less. One year it was just me, and at another time it was just me and John Bronson, who poured his heart and health into making Taj the fairest boat in the land. The stock market decline of 2000 meant that I had to put the project to sleep for two years and go back to practicing law - something I hadn't done in 17 years. I found that you can do a lot when you have to. You can also have some pretty funny job interviews when you have a gap in your CV like I did. I happened onto somebody who wished he'd gone cruising instead of practicing law, and since he preferred cruising stories to new lawyer B.S., he hired me. Poor fellow. Anyway, it allowed me to pay the guys and keep the boat project going.

We started with strip-planked cedar for the hulls and lower decks, but switched to Corecell foam for the upper decks and coach roof. This was partly due to our increasing sophistication with building materials, and partly my allergy to cedar - which for me is the nastiest material I've ever worked with. I'll take isocyanates any day. By then, Dave Howell and I had discovered a source of 'seconds' of honeycomb core panels - although not from Boeing, the usual seconds source. They came in piles of panels, and we had to buy all that was offered, regardless of quality or dimension. It was too late in construction for Dave to use them, but I built Taj's entire interior from them. Most of the panels were carbon-skinned with a Nomex core, but some had glass skins.

After going back to work, I got Ken Lincoln back on the job for spray painting, epoxy work and a thousand other things nobody else can do as well. John Bronson, who worked the longest on the boat, came back, too. Bill Colson is a genius at pattern-making and systems design, which he did to an exceptional standard. Glen Taniguchi and Tom Gillespie get most of the blame for the interior. They forced me to do a cardboard mock up of the interior, from which we learned an enormous amount about the scale and aesthetics. They also worked to tolerances I can't even see. Tim Uecker of Meridian Stainless did superb custom stainless work - at prices that can't be discussed in a family publication.

Along the way, I got married. Janet had no possible idea what she was getting involved in, but wanted a freezer on the boat. Sure. No problem. No problem a few bazillion can't cure. So we have a superb Glacier Bay freezer, due largely to Bill Colson's high standards and exceptional support from Paul Miller and Mark McBride at Miller & Miller Boatyard in Seattle. I'm sure they lost money on us, but we'll be back. The mast came from my old friend Pete Shaw at Sparcraft South Africa, as did the sails from friends Craig Middleton and Jannie Reuvers at Quantum in Cape Town. These folks had provided sails and spars for Nepenthe when I was in Cape Town, and they gave the same good service and more this time around.

When the boat was nearing completion, I asked around for berth space. Every harbormaster just fell to the floor howling with laughter when I told them what I needed. So we bought a dock. It came with some land and a house in Port Ludlow, across from the Port Ludlow Marina. If you're silly enough to build a multihull, stop by for refreshments. I have a lot of leftover materials to sell you.

Shortly after the launch of Taj, we took her to Canada for a two-week cruise. Unfortunately, there wasn't that much wind, and it's been too cold to sail over the winter, so we can't give much of a performance report quite yet. We're not sure when, but before too long Janet and I would like to cruise up to Alaska and down to Mexico. And Janet is even pushing for a circumnavigation. Who knows?

- peter 04/05/07

Aztec - Cape North 43
David and Carolyn Cammack
Mazatlan, Good Place To Be Stuck
(San Francisco)

We finally left Puerto Vallarta, and the first day sailed out to Punta Mita to spend the night on the hook. On Day Two we continued on to Mantanchen Bay (San Blas), where we spent another night. By the way, our afternoon sail between Punta Mita and Mantanchen Bay was the nicest sailing we've ever had on this boat - three hours of pleasant beam reaching under just the big genoa.

Before the sailing breeze came up we were motoring, and I didn't like the look of the white smoke coming out of the engine exhaust or the fact that there wasn't much water coming out either. I checked the three things that were mostly likely to cause white smoke - a clogged sea strainer, a broken salt water impeller and a plugged intake. The first two possibilities weren't a problem, so I pulled the hose off the inside of the thru-hull. The water should have shot in when I opened the valve, but since it just dribbled in, I knew that was the problem. Trying to clear the obstruction from the inside didn't seem to do much, so the only thing left was to jump into the ocean to see if there was a blockage there. Some friends had said the barnacles had been so thick on the bottoms of their boats that they'd gotten clogged intakes. But I didn't find anything in the way of barnacles. There was, however, one sort of spongy plant at the outer edge of the intake, so I knocked him off, but that was it. Since there was nothing else to do, we started the engine again. Problem solved! I guess that little spongy guy just flopped into the hole when it started sucking in water!

After San Blas, we continued on to Isla Isabella, the small bird and marine sanctuary about 40 miles off the coast. We saw hundreds of frigates sitting in the low trees. On our way out there, we had a radio conversation with another boat that had been out there two years before, and they told us about the whale sharks. Before long we saw a group of three! They were probably juveniles beacause they were 'only' about 20 feet long. We circled them slowly and could see that they are shaped sort of like other sharks, except that their mouths are wide and flat. Think vacuum cleaner, because that's about what they are. They have big vertical dorsal and tail fins and swim lazily along the surface straining up krill and other tiny sea thingies.

We went ashore to see the nesting frigate birds, and there were chicks everywhere. They weren't afraid of us at all. There were also boobies on the island, but they weren't nesting at the time. David also snorkeled in the clearest water he's seen in Mexico. We could see the anchor 30 feet down on the bottom. We stayed for two nights, then left at 4 a.m. hoping to make Mazatlan before dark.

The surf at the narrow entrance to the channel had large ocean swells crashing against it, so we weren't allowed to enter. This meant we had to anchor for two nights in the old harbor. Even though we'd waited for the swell to diminish, we still surfed into the channel and the El Cid Marina. We've been here for three weeks now, starting to get boat work done. We greatly prefer Mazatlan for the ease of getting work done, getting around the city, and because it's generally a more authentic Mexican city. We'll probably be here at least a month, but we're not complaining because it's a good place to be 'stuck'.

- david and carolyn 05/09/07

Fantasia - Islander Freeport 41
Krista Swedberg, 14, and Family
I Wanted To Do The Puddle Jump
(San Diego)

We're back! After a wonderful five-month season of cruising in Mexico, we're back in the coolish spring of California. It's quite a shock to be back in civilization. But nobody can blame me for being here, as I wanted to do the Puddle Jump across to French Polynesia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, I was out-voted by the rest of my family.

Our trip started in November after the Ha-Ha. Having spent a couple of months in Banderas Bay / Puerto Vallarta during our cruise five years ago, we rather quickly continued down to Tenacatita Bay and Barra de Navidad. One of the first things we noticed about Barra is that it was amazingly neat and clean, and, unlike much of Mexico, not very dusty. The streets even had sidewalks! The Sands Hotel should be commended for their help and support of cruisers, as they let us tie our dinghies to their pier and bring trash, all in return for patronizing their bar and restaurant from time to time. For there, we could take a 40-cent bus ride to Melaque, where tortillas and groceries were readily available. The buses could be very entertaining, as musicians, clowns and others would perform in hopes of getting tips.

One of the things I liked most about Barra was the easy access to a nice surf break. The surf was often good, with low tide usually being the best time of all. For those needing lessons or boards, there are several surf shops in the area. The beach is a little steep-to and a little rough for just playing in the surf, but it's great for surfing. I met a lot of other teenagers during our trip this year, and surfing at Barra was one of the most fun things we did. Thanks to friends like Morgan and Joseph encouraging me to surf more, I'm not only back into it, but more accomplished than ever. The Christmas cruiser pot-luck at Barra wasn't bad, either.

Tenacatita Bay is one of the favorite cruisers' anchorages in Mexico, and we attended the 'Mayor's' raft-ups with the Alameda-based Harmony, a sistership. The morning cruisers' net there was always fun and helpful, and my sister and I enjoyed serving as net control from time to time.

But as the weeks flew by to February, our family had to decide what we were going to do next. Should we cross the Pacific to New Zealand, follow so many other cruisers to Ecuador, or Bash back to California? I was for doing the Puddle Jump across to French Polynesia, and spent many an hour trying to persuade the rest of my family. The crew of Sassona very tactfully supported my position, but in the end I was out-voted, and we were going to have to do the Bash.

We started back north with an easy rounding of the sometimes rough Cabo Corrientes, and all too soon were in Mazatlan. We left Mazatlan with one of the longest weather windows ever, and managed to make it all the way to Ensenada without any really bad weather. Although our Bash was certainly mild compared to what it could have been, I'm not sure that I'd want to do another one. The fact that we were buddyboating with Rich and Linda on Content made the wearying passages more enjoyable, as did the Patrick O'Brian and C.S. Forester books.

Having been inspired by books, other cruisers and my own experiences, I hope to take my own sailboat to the South Pacific someday. This year's cruise was very educational, as I learned about sailing tactics, using waypoints, celestial navigation - and how to stop the leaks in the caprail above my bunk. All in all, it was an amazing trip and a wonderful time with my family.

- krista 05/15/07

Krista - If you're not careful, you'll end up like Liz Clark, who after a cruise to Mexico with her parents at about the same age as you, went on to get herself a Cal 40, and is now into the second year of her sailing surfing safari. By the way, we'll have an update on Liz's adventures next month. And if you ever have the slightest doubt about what girls/women are able to accomplish, check out the first item in this month's Cruise Notes to see what Jeanne Socrates has done and is doing. There are absolutely no limits to the great things that you girls/women can do.

Cruise Notes:

We have nothing but the greatest admiration for Jeanne Socrates of the British-based Najad 36 Nereida. She started out cruising with her beloved husband George in '97, and they made it to the Caribbean before he succumbed to cancer in '03. Jeanne kept their sailing dreams alive by shipping the boat to Vancouver for a cruise, with crew, to Alaska, and the following winter to Mexico and Central America. She surprised a lot of people by being a last-minute entry in the '05 Singlehanded TransPac from San Francisco to Kauai. Shortly after arriving in the Islands, she continued on - still singlehanded - to Sitka, Alaska, and after cruising in Southeast Alaska, was forced to spend the winter in Puget Sound. Brrrrrrr. She completed her loop of the Northeast Pacific last May be taking the offshore route to San Francisco. But that's to be just the beginning of her sailing adventures.

"As a result of those ocean passages, and having had to overcome the varied problems that cropped up en route," she writes, "I have gained in confidence tremendously and have now set my sights on sailing around the world. After some necessary work on the boat, I sailed down to San Diego for a lot more work, with my circumnavigation in mind. Then came a fast journey offshore down the Baja in February, ending eventually in Zihuatanejo, from where I officially began my solo circumnavigation on March 26." The first leg of her "fast circumnavigation" was a 24-day passage to the Marquesas, after which she's continued on to Papeete. Jeanne says that she's having a great time, and despite being a singlehander, is not having a solitary life. "My social calendar gets very full!" You can follow her circumnavigation at www.svnereida.com.

For years we've been telling you that people in Mexico appear unconcerned about the proximity of crocodiles, which are common in the lagoons and rivers of the mainland. For example, locals regularly wade waist-high in the waters of Nuevo Vallarta lagoon to cast nets for fish - despite the fact that cruisers in the cockpits of boats in Paradise Marine regularly see large crocodiles cruising up and down the waterway. Companies around San Blas advertise 'swim with crocodile' programs. And down in Zihua, mothers and infants commonly lie next to crocodile tracks at the water's edge, and relatively large crocs are often found not 15 feet from restaurant tables. When we've asked Mexicans about their seemingly reckless attitude, we've been told not to worry because crocodiles don't like the taste of humans. But on May 1, Kevin Tapia Alatorre, just five years old, was grabbed by a nine-foot crocodile while standing with his parents, and dragged into the Rio Tomatlan. Witnesses say that the croc emerged from the river twice with the child in its jaws, but fled after being shot at. The child's body was found a short distance away two days later.

We've never been terribly impressed with hurricane forecasts, no matter if made by NOAA, educational institutions or private industry. Last year was a good example why, as everybody predicted an exceptionally bad year for both the East and Gulf coasts of the United States. And what happened? The Caribbean had almost none, and the U.S. came away completely unscathed. The experts either completely overlooked the fact that it was an El Nino year or forgot that El Ninos have historically been associated with light hurricane years in the Atlantic and Caribbean. We don't know that much about weather, but it seems to us that there are just so many variables that scientists are only at the beginning stages of being able to make accurate forecasts about things like hurricanes. Be that as it may, all the experts are again predicting a very active hurricane season. And when it comes to hurricanes, you always have to be prepared, for it only takes one to ruin your boat and/or your life.

"After a five-night, 900-mile sail from Panama's Las Perlas Islands to the Galapagos, we dropped anchor an hour after sunset off the main island and principal city of Santa Cruz," reports Mike Harker of Manhattan Beach, who is in the early stages of a fast circumnavigation aboard Wanderlust III, his new Hunter Mariner 49. "The anchorage faces south, so the predominantly southern swell with southeast winds needed to be countered with a stern anchor to keep the nose of the sailboat into the swell. Despite the stern anchor, the motion was terrible the first night! For the first time in over four years of sailing, I didn't sleep a minute! I got up grumpy and angry at the world. It wasn't until daylight, when I had the chance to see the complete anchorage, that I spotted a better place, just beneath the cliffs of Angermeyer Point. When I'd been to the Galapagos four years before, I'd thought it was for locals only. It wasn't, and we slept better from then on.

That incident, however, didn't test Harker's patience anywhere near as much as his having to wait for officials to get off their butts and release a critical replacement part so he could continue across the Pacific. More on that, and what it's meant to his trip, next month. Meanwhile, Harker, a professional photographer, wants everyone to know he believes he's found "the absolute best camera for a sailboat". We'll let him explain:

"I use my big Canon 16 mega-pixel camera with 10 pro lenses for most stuff, but when on the boat, the only cameras I use are my new 'shock and waterproof' Olympus Stylus series cameras. I have three of them, all of them 7.1 mega-pixels, but able to go to different depths. My favorite is the Olympus Stylus 725 SW, which cost $380 at Costco and came with a floating wrist strap and a silicone clear cover. It's waterproof down to 20 feet. My light blue Olympus is the Stylus 720 SW, because it can be dropped on cement from six feet without damage. I tested that feature by slipping and falling down a small cliff. But it's only waterproof down to three meters. The real underwater king of these small cameras is the Stylus 770 SW. which is good down to 30 feet."

"Like a lot of cruisers, we've been working our way down the Central American coast over the last few months," report Bruce Balan and Alene Rice of the Cross 46 Migration, a trimaran which has been based out of both Northern and Southern California. "We had some great inland travel adventures in Guatemala while the boat was in Barillas Marina, El Salvador - including climbing an active volcano and standing only 15 feet from flowing lava. Few boats are stopping at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, this year, as the port fees are quite expensive compared with the $10/person and no boat fees in El Salvador. We next sailed down to Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca, and spent some time in the town of San Lorenzo. Armando, the owner of the Porlamar waterfront restaurant, hailed us on VHF as we came up the channel. He made us feel most welcome, with a free drink - and a free ride to the port captain and immigration offices in nearby Henecan. San Lorenzo is a nice little town, and the trip up from the Gulf is reminiscent of sailing in the Delta. You definitely want to go up with the flood, as the current runs at as much as three knots. The M21526S1 chart for the channel to Henecan is dead-on -- even the channel buoys are exactly where they should be. When you turn off to San Lorenzo, at about 13 23.3 N 87 25.7 W, you need to use visual navigation, as that part of the chart doesn't correspond with the GPS. But it's only about two miles, and there is plenty of water at high tide. We're now in Costa Rica, enjoying a two-week visit by Bruce's mom. After that we'll head out to Cocos Island for some diving, then continue on to Ecuador, which has apparently attracted a lot of cruising boats this year."

Like cruising back in time. Rob and Lorraine Coleman, who started their cruising with a trip to Mexico aboard the Berkeley-based Columbia 30 Samba Pa Ti more than 20 years ago, and who then returned to California to buy the Angleman ketch Southern Cross to take to the South Pacific, are about to take off for a third time. "After being in Hawaii for more than eight years, it appears that we're finally going to be able to sail back to the South Pacific from whence we came," they write. They'll be easy to spot, as you no longer see many wood ketches with jaunty bowsprits like Southern Cross out cruising anymore.

"I'm getting my boat ready to leave Oregon on August 1 for a leisurely cruise down the coast of California, then I'll do the Ha-Ha at the end of October," reports Patsy Verhoeven of the Gulfstar 50. "I did the Ha-Ha in '92 and '93 before it was the Ha-Ha. After this year's Ha-Ha, I plan to visit La Paz and the Sea of Cortez. So far crew is a bit of a problem, but singlehanding a 50-ft boat would be a challenge."

"After reading all the recent letters regarding the careening of boats for maintenance, I've sent along a picture from the entrance channel to the lagoon at Barra de Navidad, Mexico," write Mike and Marilyn Morehouse, plus Bear the boat dog, of the Santa Cruz-based Mariner 50 Ladyhawke. "I don't think the skipper of the trimaran Moon Me careened his boat intentionally, but it turned out to be a good time for a bottom scrubbing. A few weeks later, another boat went aground, but this time on the other side of the channel. Had both boats been aground at the same time, they would have made great channel markers. By the way, I would recommend Mazatlan as a good place for cruisers to get their 10-Year Temporary Import Permits. I went up to the counter at the Banjercito, where a very friendly girl helped with the application form. I then went to another window to pay my $51, but was asked to sit down until I was called back. I thought it was going to be a long wait, but before I could get through a couple of letters in the recent Latitude I'd brought with me, they called me up and gave me the permit. I'd been there for a total of about an hour. We've left our boat in Mazatlan for the summer while visiting family and friends back here in the States."

As far as we at Latitude are concerned, Mexico just keeps getting better all the time. Two big reasons are the greatly reduced red tape when going from one domestic port to the other, and the wonderful new "How can I help you?" attitude of many civil servants.

"We met the poor Polish fellow who worked all his life to buy the Morgan Out-Island 51 Relentless that, as was reported in Latitude, caught fire and burned in Ensenada," report Marek and Helen Nowicki of the San Pedro-based Raireva. "He told us the fire was the result of mixing too large an amount of epoxy too close to a large container of solvent. I can see more Polish jokes coming, but it really was unfortunate. Like Latitude, I recommended that he pursue his dreams of a circumnavigation aboard something in the 28 to 35-ft range."

That small yachts are a good option for going around the world continues to be proven by Jack van Ommen of the Gig Harbor-based Naja 30 Fleetwood. By the time you read this, he will have completed a nearly 4,000-mile crossing of the Atlantic from the Cape of Good Hope to Brazil. That means in two years he will have covered 21,600 miles, and, if we're not mistaken, all of it singlehanded. And if the earth is warming, don't point your finger at van Ommen, as he's used just 100 gallons of fuel to cover all those miles and for all his electrical needs.

Speaking of fires on sailboats in Mexico, you may recall that Brian Jose's Port Townsend-based Triton 28 Shelly B caught fire and burned to the waterline in La Paz on March 14. Unbeknownst to him, local cruisers pitched in and bought him a replacement sistership, which was named the Phoenix, and did a lot of hard work to get her looking good and functional. The only fly in the ointment is that Jose hasn't been able to get clear title to the boat. It leaves him in the position of being hesitant to pour more time and money into something he doesn't have title to. At last word, he was sailing the boat to San Carlos where he was going to let the hull dry out. Unfortunately, Phoenix's engine doesn't work, and there hasn't been much wind. As such, his father tells us that Brian had only made 100 miles in seven days, which works out to an average of . . . oh man, you don't even want to know. Here's to hoping that the title can be cleared so that everybody's generosity and hard work won't have been in vain.

Jim Elfers, Marina Manager at Puerto Los Cabos Marina at San Jose del Cabo, says they are "very, very close to opening the marina to the sea." He figures it will happen sometime in June, which means the Mexican Navy dredge can come in a few weeks after that to really get the final dredging in high gear. "I expect the soft opening for the 90 slips in Phase I to be in July," says Elfers, "and the 100 slips in Phase II a short time later. When it's all done, there will be 420 slips with an average length of 50 feet, which should make it the largest marina in Mexico." There was talk that some of the slips might be for sale, but Elfers says that, like most marinas in Mexico, the facility is so close to the ocean that it's federal property, which can only be leased, not sold. Artistically, one of the highlights of Puerto Los Cabos will be the 80-ft tall bronze cross created by one of Mexico's most famous sculptors. It cost a cool $1 million, which will give you an idea of the kind of boats you can expect to find in there. Nonetheless, slips to accommodate the 150 panganeros have been set aside, as well as a 'civic plaza' where they can clean their catch.

Some people grumble about all the development on the Cape, and that's understandable. We think what happened to Cabo San Lucas, one of the most naturally beautiful places in Mexico, has been an abomination. The other side of the coin is that as a result of all the development, Baja California Sur has, according to Elfers, the highest per capita income of any region in Mexico.

There's a classic jobs versus conservation battle being waged at Careyes on Mexico's Gold Coast, as the government has given approval to what's going to be called Marina Careyitos. We haven't seen the plans, but think the name is a little deceptive. Yes, we can see where they can put in a boutique hotel and some megamillion homes, but if you've been to the old Bel-Air Hotel and old Club Med site, you know there won't ever be room for more than a few boats. In any event, it's a high stakes battle between some of the most powerful families in Mexico in an area that's about the most undeveloped on the coast, yet has homes that often play host to the rich and famous of the world.

"We're back in La Cruz again for a short time before putting our boat in Paradise Village Marina for the summer," report Terry and Jonesy Morris of the Chula Vista-based Gulfstar Sailmaster 50 Niki Wiki. "Although the marina is not expected to open until this winter, yesterday they put in a floating dock for dinghies and pangas. The beach formerly used for dinghy landing is being bulldozed - again - and it looks as though they will be building a rock berm there."

There was tragic news out of Carlsbad, California, in late April, as veteran cruisers Lee and Sharon Kochert of the Catalina 42 Namache, and Sharon's 25-year-old daughter Alexandria Meekcoms, were killed after the Kocherts' Cessna 182Q crashed shortly after takeoff. The engine had been heard sputtering before the plane went down. Based on a Changes we did on the Kocherts for the April '05 Latitude, they were wonderful people. A short time later, they sailed Namache across the Pacific to Australia, where their adventuresome spirits made them many Aussie friends.

"Thanks for turning us on to Mark Mulligan," write Tom and Judy Blandford of the Missoula, Montana-based Imagine Me. "We can't say enough good things about Mark, his music, his words, his charity work and his incredible attitude. After we heard about Mark in Latitude, we met him and his two boys - a couple of tough little dudes - this year in San Carlos. For readers who may be unfamiliar with his story, Mark recently lost his wife in a tragic auto accident in Guaymas. His sons were also severely injured, and it was believed the oldest would never walk again. But when we met this son in May, he was running around on the beach - and gave me a low punch that nearly put me on the deck! I'd say he's recovered just fine. We bought six of Mark's music CDs, which kept us smiling on a road trip to L.A."

'Here's a quick update on San Carlos and Guaymas," the couple continue. "As of May, the new 25-boat marina and boatyard were about to open in Guaymas. The slips appear to be right for 30 and 40-footers, while the end-ties would accommodate boats to 50 feet. We think the best part of the new facility will be the boatyard, the surface of which is concrete. The new Travel-Lift is in place and ready to go. Not everybody seems to know about the Pemex fuel dock just outside Guaymas. When diesel was selling for $2/gallon in San Carlos a year ago, we were able to top off at $1.26/gallon. Things sure have changed since our first trip to San Carlos in '73, as now gringos are buying land and building houses like mad, and every English-speaking Mexican is either a real estate broker or contractor. Marina San Carlos is an outstanding facility, professionally operated, clean and well-maintained. We wish we could say the same about Marina Real, although it's not the fault of Isabel, the terrific young woman who runs the office and almost makes up for all the shortcomings."

"Three more little tidbits," the Blandfords write. "Cruisers are so unhappy with the ridiculous rates Singlar charges for their facilities at Puerto Escondido, that some musicians told us there was talk about moving the event to San Carlos. It's only talk so far, but it's indicative of cruiser sentiment toward Singlar. As for Norm Goldie in San Blas, we hate to say it, but he's a pain in the ass. He was troublesome when we first met him years ago, causing us several problems. He was recently on the Amigo Net complaining about the things cruisers said about him. The truth is, he's his own worst enemy. By the way, we listened to Goldie over our Icom 718, which is a ham radio with a fairly small footprint that's relatively easy to operate and is borado - inexpensive. A modification allows it to work on USB and LSB frequencies, and it's SailMail compatible."

Roy and Marlene Verdery, the Sausalito-based couple who began cruising by taking their Pearson 36 Jellybean to Mexico with the Ha-Ha in '04, have completed their journey to the dark side of sailing by moving aboard their new catamaran on the East Coast:

"We emptied Jellybean and left her in La Paz, then drove to L.A., from which we sent just over 1,000 pounds of stuff to Damiana, our new-to-us Manta 42 catamaran in St. Augustine, Florida. Friends Rob and Linda Jones of the Whidbey Island-based Gemini 3000 of Cat 'n About, who also did the '04 Ha-Ha, also flew east and helped us get the boat ready. Rob did a perfect job of installing our new watermaker, assisted the rigger putting in our new mast, and showed us how to handle a cat. Linda scraped off the old name, replaced gaskets on the hatches, repaired the sail cover, sewed shade covers, and, like Rob, did so many other things that we can't even remember. They've been a great help. We've been motoring and sailing down the ICW for the past few days getting ready to head for Panama, where we'll keep the boat for the summer. Gene Gelbach, who did the 04 Ha-Ha aboard his San Francisco-based Irwin 46 Chalet Mer, will be joining us at Isla Mujeres, Mexico. By that time we should be in top shape, and plan to enjoy many days snorkeling the reefs and islands on the way to Panama."

Didn't we leave Santa Cruz a few months ago? While down in Zihua this winter, Alan and Margaret 'Mac' Mathison, and boat cat Maggie of the Santa Cruz-based Morgan 43 Effie were running the net shortly after Zihua SailFest when they came to the realization that, of the 18 or so boats that checked in, a third of them were from Santa Cruz. They were: Tom and Ann Carr of the Dreadnaught 32 Leonidas, Tom Deasy and MaryEllen Mullane of the Amel 46 Aphrodite; John Deworken and Kelly Blazo of the Cal 30 Que Tal, Jim and Tiffany Tindle of the Tayana 48DS Blue Plains Drifter, and Darryl and Judy Morehouse of the Mariner 50 Ladyhawk.

"We cruised the Philippines for over three months, but still don't quite know what we think of the country," report Garth Wilcox and Wendy Hinman of the Port Ludlow, Washington-based Wylie 31 Velella. "Of the many countries we've visited, it's not one of our favorites. We had a great many experiences and really appreciate the country's natural beauty, yet we were hassled more in the Philippines than almost anywhere we've been. It was so bad that at times that we could hardly wait to leave." Wilcox and Hinman did the '00 Ha-Ha, and have been cruising ever since. For more on their experiences in the Philippines and many other places they've been, visit yachtvelella.blogspot.com.

"The best investment we made on our boat for our cruise was our Lewmar 1000 electric windlass, writes Saesha of Sea Heather (last name, boat type and hailing port unknown). "The windlass meant no more back pains! We also liked our stern-mounted long-range wireless internet antenna. Thanks to its range of up to five miles, we were able to 'borrow' wireless access in many anchorages. Our favorite anchorage? The north cove at Careyes, where we had beautiful water, a private beach, and no Club Med." If you've read Cruise Notes in order, you know that the north cove of Careyes is slated to become part of the Marina Careyitos project.

"It was no contest, the most valuable investment I made before going cruising was a big solar array, which gave me the power to operate all the rest of my "most valuable cruising gear"," writes Steve Bondelid, formerly of Grey Max.

It's usually recommended that boats, particularly complicated ones, be shaken down for about six months before they are taken on long ocean passages. Well, Ni Orsi of the Stockton Sailing Club-based Dolphin 460 cat Finalamente either doesn't believe in that or didn't have time for it. A member of the '64 Olympic Ski team, Orsi and his wife Krissy wanted to get their new cat from the factory in Brazil to Valencia, Spain, for a peek at the America's Cup action, but most importantly to their new home in Santa Margheurita, Italy, gateway to Portofino, for the summer cruising season. It's about a 6,500-mile mostly open ocean trip, and their first stop wasn't going to be the Azores, 3,500 miles after they set sail from Brazil. Considering that Finalamente is a brand new boat with lots of new gear, the problems seemed about normal to us: the radar, autopilot, generator, and watermaker all crapped out at one time or another during the 21-day trip to the Azores, and clogged fuel lines even knocked out both engines for a spell on the way to Gibraltar. Still they managed to get most of the important stuff but the autopilot working again. Despite the problem, Ni never lost his faith in techno gadgets. While in the Azores, he added a washer/dryer, microwave, blender, pannini maker, and a French press coffee gizmo. After a day at the Louis Vuitton races in Valencia, they continued on to Santa Margherita, where they have an entire summer of dolce vita before them.

In the April Changes, Martin Vienneau of the San Diego-based Brewer 44 Crystal Wind, wrote about having to be rescued by the Mexican Navy north of Cedros because of bad fuel he got at Turtle Bay. Then in the May Letters, J.R. Beutler of the Catana 47 Moon and Stars responded that almost all the boats he's known that have had fuel problems doing Bashes hadn't had their fuel systems maintained as well as they might have, possibly had old and dirty tanks, and didn't have the necessary filtration. Well, Vienneau took exception to the suggestion that sailors such as himself don't maintain their fuel systems as well as powerboaters. My fuel tanks are just a couple of years old, and are state-of-the-art, with inspection ports in all the baffle areas. In addition, I have two sets of big Racor filters, plus a prefilter, and always change my fuel filters before starting a Bash. That's why I'd never had a problem before in 11 previous Bashes, and why I'm convinced that I got bad fuel in Turtle Bay."

"We were stunned to find that our dinghy and outboard were stolen from the San Carlos, Mexico, dinghy dock one afternoon," write David and Betty Lou Walsman of the Indianapolis-based Hunter 420 Decade Dance. "We can kayak ashore, and two crews in the anchorage have offered to give us rides, but we're still in shock. The marina, which has a sign on the dinghy dock that requests that locks not be used, is 'writing a letter to the capitania'. We imagine that people will now start using locks. What a sad finale to four really great months of cruising in Mexico."

Missing the pictures? See the June 2007 eBook!

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