Latitude home Latitude 38


Back to 'Changes' Index Changes in Latitudes
June 2013

Missing the pictures? See our June 2013 eBook!
Bookmark and Share

With reports this month from Zoe after a World ARC circumnavigation; from The Blue Peter about losing her rig in Antigua; from Destiny on sushi in Mazatlan; from Mariah on seven sensational months in Mexico; from Honeymoon on the Top Ten stops in 15,000 miles; from 'ti Profligate on three months in the Caribbean; and a healthy serving of Cruise Notes.

Zoe — Beneteau Oceanis 461
Edward and Zoe Butt
World ARC
(Santa Maria)

[Editor's note: While walking the quay in St. Barth, we spotted a stern-tied sailboat with a hailing port of Santa Maria. "Santa Maria, California?" we wondered to ourselves. Owners Edward and Zoe are indeed from Santa Maria, and had just completed the 2012-'13 World ARC. We didn't get to spend more than a few minutes with them, but they promised a review of the 15-month, 26,000-mile event. Here it is.]

We loved every aspect of the WARC, which featured 39 boats between 39 and 67 feet in length, including five catamarans. The boats hailed from 12 countries, with six from the U.S. The 200 or so participants came from 20 countries.

The WARC enabled us to accomplish a dream that we wouldn't have been able to accomplish easily otherwise. The pace was indeed fast, but that fit our current life situation.

The entry fee for the World ARC was not cheap, but we feel that we more than got our money's worth. A few of the advantages are: 1) A well-established route created by Jimmy Cornell to be at the right places at the right times of year to avoid weather problems. 2) Organized net controllers for twice-daily contacts by SSB during passages. 3) A Yellow Brick GPS tracking device which automatically posted positions to rally headquarters and on the Internet. The latter two were helpful when Srecko and Olga Pust's U.S.-based Sweden 45 Caio hit something in the Indian Ocean and sank. 4) An office at each destination staffed by Rally officials to answer questions and help make arrangements for tours, hotels, and so forth, and usually at reduced rates. 5) Special no-hassle arrangements with officials for clearing in and out. Officials usually met WARC boats on a schedule at the marina or onboard. 6) Special arrangements with yacht clubs or marinas along the way so that WARC boats could be docked, moored, or anchored together. We often got two or three nights of mooring or berthing for free, as well as discounts for longer stays.

There's more. 7) A Rally associate at each location who spoke the language. This was very helpful in Brazil, for example, where the language is Portuguese and very few locals speak English. 8) Professional worldwide weather routing delivered to our boat daily. 9) A detailed Skipper's Briefing regarding each leg as well as conditions expected at the end of the passage. 10) Recommendations for repair specialists at each destination, as well as help scheduling them in advance so that they were available when the boats arrived. 11) An organized tour at each destination to get crews oriented. 12) Greetings by local officials and official greeters, the latter usually in traditional dress and with local foods and beverages. 13) Sponsored dinners at each location with entertainment by local talent. 12) Briefings by local cruisers on local conditions during 'free-sailing' period. And more.

Assuming our health holds up, we will probably do another one in a few years.

We plan to ship our boat from Florida to California this summer, so we would meet a future WARC on the Pacific side of Panama. Andrew Bishop of World Cruising Ltd said that would not be a problem. If we did join a second time, we would probably drop out of the rally in Polynesia to spend more time between there and New Zealand. Then we'd either pick up the WARC in Australia as it came around the following year, or maybe we'll just sign up for a half-WARC, visit New Zealand and so forth, and then sail up the Line Islands to Hawaii and back to California.

We live in Santa Maria, but we've kept Zoe in either Miami or Cape Canaveral since 1998. We have sailed with family and friends to the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and the warm waters of the Caribbean. Once Zoe gets to the West Coast, we'll keep her in Ventura.

We're currently in Santa Barbara de Samana, Dominican Republic. There's no marina here, but there's a super anchorage off the clean and lovely little town. There are about two dozen cruising boats, but only one other one from the United States. We're bound for Provinciales, Caicos.

— ed and zoe 05/09/13

The Blue Peter — Classic Mylne 65
Mathew Barker
Caribbean Season / Dismasting
(Mougins, South of France)

[Shortly after the windy Antigua Classic Regatta in late April, the beautiful 65-ft classic sloop The Blue Peter, minus the top half of her mast, side-tied to the quay in St. Barth.]

38: Tell us your sailing story.

MB: I was born in Sheffield, England, but spent a lot of time working in London. Now I live in Mougins, which is just behind Cannes. The Blue Peter lives in the harbor at Cannes.

38: Have you owned a lot of yachts?

MB: I sailed dinghies a lot as a kid, but didn't have much time for sailing while I was an investment banker in The City. After I retired from finance at age 33, I sailed quite a bit again, so I decided to buy a classic wooden yacht. I wouldn't have bought anything but wood. That was 13.5 years ago.

38: Did The Blue Peter need much work?

MB: She was built in 1930 from wood harvested in Thailand in 1870. And yes, I undertook the challenge of a three-year restoration at two yards in Tuscany. They did fantastic work, particularly Cantiere dell'Argentario. I've been racing The Blue Peter on the classic circuit ever since.

38: With a large wooden yacht, we suppose the work never ends.

MB: It's an ongoing challenge. Once you finish at one end it's time to start at the other. Varnish, paint, replacing bits — these older ladies always need TLC.

38: Tell us about your winter.

MB: We sailed from Cascais, Portugal to Barbados in December as part of the Panerai Classic TransAtlantic Race. It wasn't too well organized as the main sponsor didn't come on until late, so there were only 13 yachts this year. There were a few squalls, a few dull bits, but on the whole it was an amazing three-week, one-hour crossing. There were eight of us, and to do it on a classic yacht was special.

Our first Caribbean regatta was the Around Barbados Race. Barbados isn't really set up for yachting, but the organizers did it properly and it was great fun. Then we continued 100 miles to the west to cruise the Grenadines. It's incredible down there! Then we sailed 400 miles north to the British Virgins for their famous Spring Regatta. It was lovely fun, but they really didn't know what to do with a classic yacht such as mine; the fleet mostly consisted of modern plastic boats. But we did win the Pursuit Race.

38: Then you came back down to St. Barth?

MB: Yes. I sailed the Bucket on Donald Tofias' Wild Horses, the only sub-100-foot boat. It was an amazing event. Five J Class yachts on the starting line at once? That's unheard of. It was good fun on super yachts.

I had a charter for the Voiles de St. Barth 10 days later, but when that fell through I joined Wild Horses again, this time as navigator. I got to sit back and tell the owner where to go. I can assure you that's much less stressful than racing your own boat.

38: Do you do a lot of charters?

MB: It's been my job for the last 10 years. I bought The Blue Peter with my ill-gotten gains from working in The City for 12 years, and since then my job has been running the boat.

38: She can't pay for herself chartering, can she?

MB: She actually does. She goes for $15,000 a week for seven, and there are about 20 classic sailing events in the Med each summer. And I do most of the work on the boat. I don't get rich, but she does pay for herself.

38: What kind of clients do you get?

MB: Every type you can imagine. The Blue Peter does well in classic events. We've won everything but at St. Tropez.

38: Do you ever miss working as an investment banker in London?

MB: I don't miss anything about finance but the paychecks.

38: Tell us about the name The Blue Peter.

MB: The Blue Peter is the P flag. In the olden days, it was the preparatory signal — 'We're going to leave, so all aboard that's coming aboard, and all ashore that's going ashore.' These days it's mainly used as preparatory signal in racing, so at the four- or five-minute gun, depending on the racing instructions, they raise the Blue Peter.

38: Let's return to the Caribbean. How was this year's Antigua Classic Regatta?

MB: As far as the sailing went, it wasn't very technical, as there was lots of reaching and not much upwind or downwind work. It's sort of a big party with sailing thrown in instead of a sailing event with a party thrown in. But it was brilliantly organized and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Prior to the start of the Classic we had a couple of days of more competitive racing in Carlo Falcon's Mariella Challenge. When the main event rolled around, it was very windy with big, short period seas. We had a great first day, but it was very windy. I've done more than 100 regattas in the Med in the last 10 years, and we're used to sailing in 12 to 15 knots of breeze. All of the sudden, we were racing in 25 knots of wind and big, short seas.

The seas weren't quite as bad the second day, as we were riding them rather than smashing into them, but just as we were about to tack for the layline to the finish, BOOM! one of the chainplates shot out of the side of the boat and the rig came down. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. I regularly check my chainplates like everybody else, but obviously some of the bolts weren't quite as strong as I thought they were. But it was blowing 28 knots, we were close-hauled, and we probably had too much sail up.

38: We're told there were five spars in the record 65-boat fleet that broke during that second race, but that yours was the only main mast. So we suppose you're now faced with the misery of having to work out a settlement with the insurance company and going through the hassles of getting a new mast built.

MB: Not at all . . . [voice trails off as a stunning woman passes by our table.] God, I love this island. Where was I? No, I think things are in good shape. After the mast came down and we got things settled on the boat, I had a few drinks. But I know the owner of Pantaenius, the big yacht insurer that also insures The Blue Peter. After having my few drinks, I called him at his home in Monaco on a Sunday night. "No worries," he told me, "you're covered. There won't be any problems."

38: Nice.

MB: In a matter of days, I got a quote from a sparmaker in Villefranche, France, probably the most famous mast maker in the Med these days. The quote was quickly approved by Pantaenius.

So my plan is to motor on down to St. Thomas and put The Blue Peter on a ship to Genoa. Hopefully the mast will be completed before she arrives at Genoa in mid-June. At that time we will begin varnishing, putting the metal bits on, and getting the mast in the boat. But Villefranche, that's not a bad place to get stuck for a few months in the summer.

The only downside is that I'll have missed half the classic regatta season in the Med. But The Blue Peter should be up and running in August for the regatta in Palma, then one around Corsica, Porto Retonda in Sardinia, then up to Monaco, Villefranche, Cannes, and the final classic regatta of the season at St. Tropez.

38: Will we see you back in the Caribbean next winter?

MB: [After thinking for a minute.] I'm tempted. Very tempted.

— latitude/rs 05/05/13

Destiny — Catalina 42
John and Gilly Foy
Unusual Mexican Food
(Punta Mita / ex-Alameda)

If anyone is looking for a good culinary reason to go cruising in Mexico this winter, one of the reasons can be found in the photo above. While getting a bottom job on Destiny in Mazatlan, the Foys stopped at the Wine and Sushi Restaurant, which is located one block off the Machado Plaza in Old Town Mazatlan.

"Wine and Sushi is an all-you-can-eat place," they report. "We started off with a tempura veggie plate, then a tuna sashimi plate, followed by the plate in the accompanying photo, which consists of a scallop roll, a salmon roll, a yellowtail tuna roll and a maguro tuna roll. Not only was it all super fresh and absolutely delicious, they will keep bringing you more until you explode."

We know of places in the Caribbean where the single plate in the photo would cost over $100. But at the Wine and Sushi in Mazatlan, the entire all-you-can-eat meal came to $9.09. Eat your heart out; sushi is good for you.

— latitude/rs 05/05/13

Mariah — Gulf 32 Pilothouse
Ken Painter
Memories of Mexico

I'm four hours south of Turtle Bay, 'Bashing' my way north to San Diego. Since I'm in near-glassy conditions, I have time to reflect on my first, but hopefully not last, cruise to Mexico.

Our family has owned Mariah for seven years, during which time I was continually improving her with the dream of going cruising someday. My wife and kids weren't too fond of the idea of extensive cruising, so we agreed on a six-month trip for me, where they would meet me along the way: two weeks on San Francisco Bay and doing the Delta Doo-Dah; two weeks at Catalina; for the Christmas Break in La Paz; and during Spring Break in Puerto Vallarta.

I left Seattle in July of last year, and had old friends and new friends sign on as crew for the various legs as far south as Cabo San Lucas. Once I got to Cabo, I nervously ventured on alone to La Paz and eventually to Puerto Vallarta/Banderas Bay. I flew home twice during the cruise to work and see my family for about two months each time. When I get to San Diego, I plan to have Mariah trucked back to Seattle.

It's hard to summarize an incredible experience that turned out to be the realization of my lifelong dream, so I thought I'd make a Top Ten list of the highlights, which I present in chronological order.

1) Drinking Champagne while sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge, and cruising San Francisco Bay.

2) Participating in the 2012 Delta Doo-Dah, and enjoying the warmth and diversity of the Delta.

3) Cruising Catalina Island with my family and friends, with Emerald Cove and Avalon being the two favorites.

4) Participating in the 2012 Baja Ha-Ha.

5) Experiencing the terrific cruising community at Marina de La Paz and during walks on the La Paz malecon.

6) Exploring the bays and islands near La Paz. My favorites were exploring Balandra Bay, snorkeling with the playful sea lions at Los Islotes, and campfires on the beaches.

7) My first multi-day solo passage, from La Paz to Banderas Bay, which turned out to be a peaceful experience.

8) Surfing in and around Punta Mita, which is also a great anchorage.

9) Exploring Banderas Bay, with the favorite activities being watching the breaching whales, snorkeling at the Marieta Islands, hiking to the waterfalls up the lush Yelapa Valley, and taking the bus to Sayulita.

10) Relaxing at Paradise Resort & Marina, including enjoying the many pools and hot tubs.

While my cruise was nearly perfect, it's only fair to include my negative experiences:

1) My boat was broken into and much gear was taken while she was anchored alone at Punta Mita. This was my fault, as I left her at anchor for two months. In general, Punta Mita is really a safe anchorage.

2) Stepping on a sea urchin while surfing at La Lancha and trying to remove the spines.

3) A brief bout of the engine overheating in San Diego.

Only three negatives in seven months of cruising? Not bad!

The best part of all my positive experiences was sharing them with family and new and old friends. Even while bashing home alone, I continue to meet other cruisers and share information and experiences. The cruising life is a great life, and I was lucky to be able to experience it — if only for seven months or so.

I’ve been reading Latitude 38 for years while dreaming of cruising, but found that while cruising, I didn't have to read about the exploits of others because I was doing it myself. So I guess my advice to those who dream of cruising is to stop dreaming and make it happen, whether it be for months or years. It’s a great way of life for those who appreciate the adventure.

— ken 05/17/03

Honeymoon — Lagoon 380
Seth and Elizabeth Hynes
Top Ten, Caribbean to Australia
(Mill Valley)

I know it's a little late, but after an 18-month, 15,500-mile cruise from Hampton Roads, Virginia, to Sydney, Australia that ended in 2010, we came up with the following Top Ten list of places that we enjoyed. Before we get to the list, I have to report that we did the impossible. After 15,000 miles of cruising, we sold our cat for more money than we'd paid for her. In fact, thanks to the currency exchange, we had two Aussies get into a bidding war over her — while we were still in the South Pacific!

Now for the list: .

#10 — The British Virgin Islands, which stays in our Top Ten, but just barely. Who can deny that this is a cruiser’s paradise? It's no secret, which is why the islands are swamped with mooring balls and mariners. Nonetheless, the islands remain special to us, as there are so many great places to sail to, wonderfully protected waters, safe anchorages, great snorkeling, excellent bars and restaurants, and incredible beauty. This is Britain at its best!

#9 — English Harbor, Antigua. Although bumped from sixth to ninth after we crossed the Pacific, English Harbor remains one of our favorite places. It has a perfect combination of well protected anchorages, fascinating history, great beaches, good restaurants, and more boat services than a cruiser could ever need. Nelson’s Dockyard is a properly restored 18th Century fortress, and as you walk the docks you feel like a mate from an old British tall ship — even if you have an espresso in your hand and you are surrounded by luxury yachts.

#8 — Niue is a new entry to the Top Ten, and that's quite a feat, as it is the smallest island nation in the South Pacific. But maybe that's why we loved it. With only one real town and hotel, this place epitomizes the concept of 'away from it all'. It could also be why over a dozen whales call it home and swim freely between the boats in the anchorage. At night we could hear them sounding through the hull, and we had to ask ourselves whether it would get any better. Amazingly, it did.

#7 — Another new entry, the Vava’u Group of islands in Tonga offers a wide range of reasons for being included in our Top Ten. Take its dozens of beautiful islands and throw in whale sightings, city services, limestone caves, world-class diving, and a friendly local community with a unique historical culture and you have a sure winner. Vava’u had it all, and kept our attention for almost a month. Do your next charter here and you won't be disappointed.

#6 — Opunahu Bay, Moorea, French Polynesia. Everyone has heard of Bora Bora, but its sister island of Moorea genuinely surprised us. Moorea’s peaks soar like monoliths into the heavens, and the surrounding reef protects a beautiful anchorage with 10-20 feet of sand and crystal-clear water. Add great snorkeling, a palm-lined beach, friendly resort bars, and diving with sharks and stingrays, and you have one of our remaining favorite places. This is the postcard-perfect island of the South Pacific.

#5 — Sydney, Australia, is another new entry, but a very different one from our other favorite places. Everyone loves Australia, and it’s no wonder when you see Sydney by boat. It is a world-class harbor and a world-class city, where the people are friendly and the restaurants are fantastic. After a year on tiny islands, Sydney was exactly what we needed, and it delivered in spades. With the spectacular New Year's Eve celebration, it was the perfect place for us to finish our journey.

#4 — Barbuda. It’s hard to beat French Polynesia, but tiny Barbuda in the Caribbean manages to sneak by with our #4 rating. The beach is so long — 16 miles! — that you can claim a few miles as your own private anchorage. There is only one hotel, and it's empty, so finding your own slice of heaven is easy. The water is a brilliant green, and the beach is like talcum powder but with a pink tinge. Add a frigate bird sanctuary that rivals the Galapagos Islands, and you have our fourth favorite place.

#3 — Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia. This island didn’t seem like much until we rounded the final corner into the Bay of Virgins. Then wow! After 20 days at sea, any anchorage would seem amazing, but this place is surrounded by tiki-like rock towers that appear to magically come to life in the sun’s setting shadows. It seems like an imaginary setting where fairy tales could come true, and no photos do it justice. Add an amazing waterfall hike and a wading pool, and you have our third favorite place.

#2 — Santa Cruz, Galapagos Island, Ecuador. Although the actual anchorage wasn’t all that nice, the small village of Puerto Ayora does not disappoint. There were great restaurants, Internet cafes, tour agents and night clubs. The nearby Bahia Tortuga beach was perfect for both beginner and intermediate surfing, and the animals, animals, animals everywhere were simply amazing. We surprisingly fell in love with the Galapagos, and this touristy home port had it all. But watch out for the sea lions looking for a place to sleep on your boat!

#1 — Bora Bora, French Polynesia. This remains our all-time favorite spot. It would be hard for Bora Bora to live up to the hype, but somehow this small island still managed to surprise us. Despite the large number of resorts and cruisers, we magically found ourselves alone for four nights on the island’s eastern coast with glorious views. One night a full moon illuminated the lagoon’s shallow green waters, and during the day the views of the peak jutting out from the middle of the atoll tempted us to make the 5-hour hike to the summit. The southernmost anchorage featured water clearer than a bottle of Evian, and when we went snorkeling we had 15 sharks circling us as we fed the local stingrays. Although similar to Moorea, the multitude of anchorages, cruiser friendly hotels, friendly locals, superb hiking and crystal-clear waters make this our favorite spot in 15,500 miles.

How did we like our Lagoon 380 after more than 15,000 miles? We liked her a lot, and would definitely consider buying another one should we ever go cruising again — although dagger boards would have been nice. For us, the Lagoon was the right combination of comfort, price and performance — in that order. Although designed primarily for coastal cruising or local charter work, the Lagoon did well as a bluewater cruiser when following the tradewinds in the lower latitudes. If you're going cruising in the higher latitudes, where the weather gets more severe, or plan to do a lot of upwind sailing, this may not be the right boat. But the Lagoon 380 fit our needs perfectly.

— seth 05/18/13

'ti Profligate — Leopard 45 Cat
La Gamelle — Olson 30
Random Thoughts
(The Caribbean)

Having just spent three months in the Caribbean — bless our lucky hearts — we've collected some random thoughts:

— Unlike Mexico and Central America, there's lots of 'weather' in the Caribbean. It's usually blowing medium to strong, and it's never calm. Flat seas? Forget about it. If there are clear skies in the afternoon, there will probably be torrential squalls in the middle of the night. Among the ever-changing conditions, there is one constant — it's blessedly warm.

— It's so warm that we spent the whole time in three pairs of shorts, three short-sleeve Weekender linen shirts that we found at Budget Marine, and two pairs of sandals. We wanted for nothing else.

— When put to hard use — getting thoroughly soaked several times a day, used for walking through the surf, being used as motorcycle boots — even the best of sandals stretch and start to fall apart. It took 5200 sealant to keep the soles on our two pairs of sandals.

— We anchored out every night, and wouldn't have had it any other way. With a cat, it's as if you have a pretty large house and the water around you is your acreage. You start to feel as if you own it.

— We mostly anchored by the #3 green buoy out by Corossol, which is near one of the big boat anchorages. It was fun to get up with the sun, take a leak off the back, and see what boats were new in town.

— Our primary anchoring spot was .8 of a mile from the dinghy dock, and in previous years we'd try to get the dinghy to plane to complete the trip as quickly as possible. This year we got into the Zen of motoring at 3 knots, the speed limit that nobody observes. It was slow enough to see lots of turtles.

— During the course of the three months, we covered more than 200 miles in the dinghy, easily 20 times as many miles as we did in cars. We prefer to travel by dinghy.

— We never did downward facing dog, but when you're cruising, you do all kinds of stretching out of necessity. It's mostly involved with getting into and out of the dinghy, often while being tossed around, both at the mothership and at the dinghy dock. You're sore for the first week, but then you start feeling strong and flexible.

— Clear water — see to the bottom in 30 feet — is a wonderful thing. It should be mandatory around the world. So should 80 degree water temperatures. Write your Congressperson.

— The longer you're in the Caribbean, the more you go naked. You just do. Going naked is an effective way to get arriving charterboats to keep their distance.

— While we don't surf much any more, there is lots of great surf at St. Barth. And the quality of the surfers is outstanding. But if you want fantastic uncrowded waves that you can paddle to from your boat, the north tip of St. Kitts is the place. You always get the whole place to yourself.

— When we were younger, we wanted to go to as many places as possible, even if for only a short time. If you've never been to Nevis, we reasoned, even a day will give you an infinitely better idea of what it's like than if you only read about it. Now that we're older and have seen many of the garden spots in the world, we prefer to go to fewer places but to stay much longer. In the case of staying at a small place such as St. Barth for several months each year, you become part of the community and develop deep friendships. And you begin to understand the culture. These are all good things.

— There is nothing unpleasant about living in a place where you don't understand most of what people are saying.

— Readers may remember that we'd been sent some photos of La Gamelle's bottom and rudder, showing cracking and peeling of some the non-toxic ePaint. When we finally got to the boat in St. Kitts, we discovered that the problem wasn't widespread or terribly bad. But since they don't sell bottom paint at St. Kitts Marine Work — despite the fact that they haul 150 boats a year! — we'd had to buy our paint earlier in St. Martin. Based solely on the fact it was the only white bottom paint we could find, we bought Vivid! Experts advise you never to put one kind of bottom paint over another, but we were desperate. It worked great, as nothing grew on the bottom. The fact that we only had La Gamelle in the water for 2.5 months might have helped.

— How an island with as many boats as St. Barth can survive without a fuel dock is beyond us. When we needed diesel, we had to make a 30-mile round trip to St. Martin. When we needed gas, we had to carry the 3-gallon tank on the luggage rack of our motorcycle. We felt like a jihadist driving along the curvy roads, gas sloshing all over the hot bike. Somehow we survived.

— You think fuel is expensive in California? Try $7.50 gallon for gas in St. Barth, which isn't that much more expensive than the rest of the Caribbean. That's $50 for a 6-gallon dinghy tank. Four-stroke outboards burn about half as much as two-strokes. Diesel is a bit less expensive.

— Almost everything about the Caribbean is different from Mexico. There are so many more boats, so many more active sailors, so many more big sailing events — and above all, so many more young people. Sometimes Mexico can seem like a retirement home by comparison. If you go to the right places, the Caribbean pulses with life. Not that we don't like to hit our bunk before 11:30.

— The people and officials are almost universally friendly in Mexico. That is not the case in the Caribbean. There are lots of really nice people in the Caribbean, but there are too many rude and nasty ones.

— With only a few exceptions, food and drink in the Caribbean are ridiculously expensive — and not that tasty. If you're in St. Martin, try Lagoonies near Island Water World. There are some good places at Grand Case in St. Martin, too. But bring a fat wallet if you're going to eat out.

— The menu at Nikki Beach in St. Barth lists a bottle of after-dinner wine for just $5,000. Some people don't feel satisfied unless their meal comes with a really big bill.

— We intended to do 10 singlehanded circumnavigations of St. Barth, but we ended up doing just five, two in one day. We started two other times but stopped, once for lack of wind, once because the short steep seas had us worried about the rigging, which might be 30 years old. If we'd dropped the rig on the engineless boat on the windward side of the island, the boat and we surely would have ended up in little pieces.

— The five Zen circumnavigations cumulated a two-year endeavor of buying the boat and getting her to the Caribbean. We don't expect anybody else to understand it, but in our mind it's one of the coolest things we've done in our lives. The Olson is great for the lighter days in the Caribbean, and for windy days in the lee of the island. Simple sailing.

— The Caribbean season is over on May 1. It doesn't mean that the weather isn't still great — or that it's not even better than it is in December or January — it just means that the crowds really thin out. All the big racing events are over, so all of the Newport boats have headed back home, and the Med boats have taken off across the Atlantic. It's quiet. For those who enjoy quiet, May can be the nicest time of year in the Caribbean. Charter rates are much lower after May 1, too.

— The low point of the three months was coming down with shingles. We were misdiagnosed by a doctor at DeBruyn Hospital, who after a three-second look assured us that we had contact dermatitis. He prescribed precisely the wrong medicine and ointment. At least the hospital visit and drugs only cost a total of $50. After weeks of extreme discomfort, we visited Dr. Husson, who, dressed casually chic as though he were about to go out on a hot date, took one look and assured us that we had shingles. He was right. Nasty, wicked stuff. Get your shot — although it's no guarantee.

— The non-sailing high point of the three months occurred shortly after we arrived. We were walking head down along the beach at Baie St. Jean, deep in thought about a response to a letter or some such thing. As we passed Tom Beach, famous for celebrities and rich people lunching and frolicking, we sensed a person moving toward us. As we absentmindedly tried to step out of their way, the person changed their path to block us. We looked up to see a stunning, tall, long-haired blonde with a fabulous athletic figure. And she was wearing a tiny black bikini. Before we could mumble "Excusez-moi!", she enthusiastically blurted out, "Richard, I've been wondering when you'd finally get here!" Then she gave us a French peck on each cheek. We were dumbfounded, because we had no idea who this gorgeous woman — who had just very publicly validated us in front of the 1%ers — was. That was partly because she was wearing this big straw hat and a pair of huge sunglasses. As we waited for her to say, "Sorry, I mistook you for someone else!" she took off her sunglasses. It was Julie Greaux! It's a long story who Julie Greaux is — a third of the names in the St. Barth phone book are Greaux — but suffice it to say, it will be a long time before anyone finds a woman who is both so beautiful, so athletic, and most important, so unpretentious. Thanks for making our day, Julie!

The Caribbean and St. Barth, so much to love.

— latitude/rs 05/20/13

Cruise Notes:

Late October will see the start of the 20th Annual Baja Ha-Ha Cruisers' Rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, with stops at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. Entries started being accepted in early May, and by the 20th more than 75 paid entries had been received. So it looks as though it will be another great fleet. We hope you'll join us.

The entered boats range in size from Dan Krammer's Ericson 29 Pez Vela to Reza Malek's Beneteau 58 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Both boats hail from Sausalito. Only four cats have signed up to date.

We're always chuffed to get repeat entries, and there are already a bunch of them. Three boats will be on their sixth Ha-Ha: Myron and Marina Eisenzimmer's San Anselmo-based Swan 44 Mykonos; Bill Lilly's Newport Beach-based Lagoon 470 Moontide; and the Hughes 45 Capricorn Cat that was Ha-Ha'd three times by builder and original owner Blair Grinols, and twice by current owners Wayne Hendryx and Carol Baggerly of Brisbane. However, we think they will all be topped by the expected entry of Patsy Verhoeven of the La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion. Assuming she enters, this will be her sixth Ha-Ha. If you think that's impressive, you also need to know that Patsy always sails the entire way. That's why she richly deserves our thinking of her as La Reina del Mar. Long may she reign.

The 400-slip Marina Vallarta, the oldest of the three major marinas on Banderas Bay, and the one closest to downtown Puerto Vallarta, has been sold. This according to Christian Mancebo, the new marina manager, who had previously been the marina manager at the Marina Riviera Nayarit. It's our understanding that the company that had previously owned the marina had gone bankrupt years ago, and that the marina has been owned by the banks. The banks clearly had no intention of throwing good money after bad, and over the years the marina has fallen into considerable disrepair. It has been the subject of many complaints by tenants. In addition, many of the storefront businesses that surround the marina have failed, giving the perimeter a forlorn look. The marina's saving grace has been its proximity to the airport and downtown Puerto Vallarta, so the occupancy has been surprisingly strong.

"We have great plans for the marina," says Mancebo, "as we'll be rebuilding part of it and creating a new way of operating it." With the area just outside the marina proper booming, and the entire Vallarta area booming, it seems as though the marina is an outstanding turnaround candidate. We wish the new owner(s) luck, and believe that a much- improved Marina Vallarta will ultimately be beneficial to Paradise Marina and the Marina Riviera Nayarit, the other two big marinas on Banderas Bay.

While in Mill Valley, we bumped into Patrick and Read Adams, giving us a chance to ask what happened to Varsovie, the Swan 100 that Adams skippers, in the Voiles de St. Barth.

"The stainless headstay fitting tore like it was a piece of paper," said Patrick. "We ended up having to replace the foils and everything."

They got the job done at FKG Rigging in St. Martin, at which point they took off across the Atlantic on a three-week passage to Palma de Mallorca. "We had gale force winds much of the way, but that's what you want with a big boat like a Swan 100," says Adams. When near the Azores, they heard an alert for three French sailors on a 30-footer boat that had apparently sunk on their transAtlantic crossing. It's not known if they were ever found.

"I read a report in Noonsite that says cruisers can now get a visa that allows them to stay in French Polynesia for 18 months," writes Mark Sutton. "Is this true?"

Yes and no — but no for most Latitude readers. That Noonsite report is going to cause a lot of confusion because the 18-month visa is only good for citizens of the European Union. It's not something that we mere Americans and Canadians can apply for — no matter how many French fries we consume.

When Americans and Canadians arrive in French Polynesia, they are normally given 90-day visas, but no extensions. Their boats can stay up to 18 months, however. After the 90 days are up, they can go out of the territory and return for another 90 (it's 90 days within a six-month period).

However, if non-EU citizens (i.e Americans and Canadians) apply in advance at a French Embassy in their home country, they can get a Long Stay Visa that's good for six months in a calendar year. But it takes about two months for the embassy to process your application, and you cannot apply for it in French Polynesia.

After staying for six months, you must stay out of the territory for six months. During that time it is possible to apply for a second Long Stay Visa, good for another six months. But again, you have to apply for it in advance of arrival, and it takes a couple of months. Again, the boat can stay for 18 months. Latitude's Andy 'Mr. Puddle Jump' Turpin keeps up on this stuff. For details, visit the website.

Hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific — meaning off the Pacific Coast of Mexico — started promptly on May 15 this year when tropical storm Alvin made an appearance on the first day of the season. Like most hurricanes off Mexico, Alvin started far out to sea and continued to the northwest, not a threat to land.

The Eastern Pacific hurricane season is normally more active than the one in the Atlantic/Caribbean, as on the average there are 15 named storms, 8 of which become hurricanes, 4 of them major hurricanes. You rarely hear as much about Eastern Pacific hurricanes because most of them head out to the open ocean, unlike Atlantic/Caribbean hurricanes, most of which head toward land and population centers.

The water temperature in the equatorial Pacific is a little cooler than normal this year, which is one reason that some forecasters believe it will be a lighter than normal season in the Pacific. Let's hope! Nonetheless, some Eastern Pacific hurricanes, usually later in the season, make landfall, so if you are leaving a boat in Mexico, make sure she's hurricane-ready.

"If all goes well, we'll finish crossing the ITCZ this evening," report Brian Black and Mizzy Lewis of the Green Cove Springs, Florida-based Caliber 40 Alegria, "and we want to put out a thanks to Max Ebb. A long time ago we clipped an article of his called Squalls 101. Our having read it more carefully a second time, it gave us some clues as to whether to zig or to zag when we saw lightning in the ITCZ. It seemed to work! All is going well, although we're one of the last two or three boats to cross from Mexico this season."

"Jane and I had an easy five-day Baja Bash from Cabo San Lucas to Newport Beach," reports Craig Shaw of the Portland-based Hunter 54 Camelot. "It blew 26 knots apparent just before Cabo Falso, 22 knots at Cabo Falso, and only 15 knots or so shortly after that. Even though it's normal for the strongest winds of the Bash to be within just miles of Cabo, two sailboats were turning back as we rounded the Arch to leave the bay. It was a shame for them, as it turned out to be about the easiest Bash of the century. The only things that bothered us were that it was so freaking cold just before we got to Bahia Santa Maria, and having to sail through pods of huge blue whales. I'm terrified of whales! We never had more than 15 knots of wind north of Cabo, and most of the time we had 5 to 10 from the WNW with flat seas. We used just 50 gallons of diesel motoring to Turtle Bay at 1600 rpm. As we left Turtle Bay, Passage Weather was forecasting 5 to 10 out of the south, with 15-knot westerlies farther up. That was sweet. We hope we're as lucky the rest of the way to Portland, as we have to get Adios, my Columbia 43, ready for another Ha-Ha this fall.

"We crossed the Ionian Sea from Ithaca in Greece to Sicily over the weekend," report Ed and Sue Kelly of the Des Moines, Iowa-based 12 Meter Catalac Angel Louise. "It took us 53 hours to cover the 274 nautical miles. When we arrived at Siracusa, we were surprised to share the anchorage with the 285-ft Lurssen mega motoryacht Ace. Someone always has a bigger boat. But we're happy to report that the view of paradise from our boat was just as nice as from a football-field-long superyacht. As big as Ace is, she apparently wasn't big enough for the owner, because he also has the brand new 210-ft 'support boat' named Garcon that follows Ace around. Garcon carries all of the toys. Two differences between Garcon and our Angel Louise is that our cat doesn't have a helicopter pad or sleep 21 crew.

"We want people to realize that they can still get around the oceans of the world even if they have a humble boat such as ours," the Kellys continue. "We sailed our boat around the Caribbean, then across the Atlantic for a winter in London. The following summer we went to Holland, and using the canals and rivers of Germany, crossed the Continental Divide of Europe. We then proceeded down the Rhine River through Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Belgrade and ultimately to the Black Sea at Romania. From there it was a short trip to Istanbul. Let's see Ace try to do that trip! We're now on our way back to St. Katherine's Dock in London via the Aegean, Ionian and Mediterranean seas, and the Atlantic Ocean, to complete our one-year circumnavigation of Europe."

No kidding somebody always has a bigger boat. It wasn't until 2007 that the first private motoryacht over 500 feet in length was launched. Now there are four of them. Curiously, all four were built in Germany, three of them by Lurssen, and three of them for Arab clients. The biggest is the recently launched 590-ft Azzam for Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The previously largest motoryacht was Russian oligarch Roman Obramovich's 536-ft Eclipse.

The largest U.S.-owned megayacht is Rising Sun, the 453-footer that Larry Ellison had built in 2004. She's now just the 10th largest yacht, and is owned by David Geffen, who like Ellison came from humble origins. According to legend, Geffen lied that he'd graduated from UCLA in order to get a job in the mail room at the William Morris Agency in Hollywood, and after getting the job intercepted the letter that said he hadn't graduated.

"In late April, just hours before our departure from New Zealand for Tahiti, our boat suffered a terrible accident," report Robin and Bev Collins of the Seattle-based Hylas 46 Mersoleil. "After getting her bottom painted, the stands collapsed, dropping the boat onto the ground and causing extensive damage. As she is unseaworthy, we will not be able to leave New Zealand this season. Both of us were aboard when she fell, but we seem to have suffered only minor injuries. But we're going to miss Mr. Puddle Jump in Moorea!"

"I did the Puddle Jump to Hawaii for the winter, and found the Internet very hard to access in the islands," writes Vikey Plett of the Hans Christian 38 Inspiration at Sea. "The best system I found is Clear (, which allows you to pay as you go and gives you a hot spot that can be used by up to 10 computers at once. Fits in your pocket, too. They didn't take our credit cards because we're just Canadians, but the cash payment method suits me fine. I will also be among the first to get the new version of SkyMate, which is due to be launched now. I loved the old SkyMate for emails, blogs and weather offshore while cruising Mexico and Central America, but it didn't cover a lot of areas. But they're about to launch new satellites that should have them covering the world. And the new units will have more features. I'll give a review when we sail toward Micronesia in June."

Luke Stimson, an experienced 38-year-old British sailor making the passage from Japan to Hawaii with his fiancée Laura Vernon, fell overboard from his Jonetsu 38 and was lost at sea. The couple were 575 miles west of Midway Atoll, basically in the middle of nowhere, when Stimson, conscious and wearing a PFD, went over. It was blowing 25 knots and there were six-foot seas at the time. While Vernon was able to contact rescue authorities in England, who in turn alerted the AMVER system, she's a non-sailor and was thus unable to direct the boat back to Stimson. Resources from the Coast Guard and U.S. Navy — including a Hercules aircraft, an amphibious assault ship, and two navy helicopters — conducted an intensive search but were unable to find Stimson. Vernon was eventually taken off the boat by a US Navy helicopter. There may be a lesson in here somewhere.

After 17 years working at Marina Seca in San Carlos, Mexico, home of perhaps the largest out-of-the-water sailboat fleet in the world, Jesus Salas was recently laid off. This according to John Skoriak. Although Jesus was officially the 'transport manager', Skoriak says he was really the de facto manager of the facility — which has close to 600 sailboats in dry storage. "Jesus was an absolute prince of a guy, and was very popular with gringos," says Skoriak.

"We're writing from Puerto Escondido, Baja, where we are recovering from a most excellent Loreto Fest," report Jake and Sharon Howard of the Hunter Legend 45 Jake. "As the current Amigo Net manager, I'd like all cruisers to be aware that as of May 15, the Amigo Net will have switched frequencies to 6.212 USB. It makes more sense to operate on a 6-meg frequency versus the two-frequency system (8.122 and 4.149) that has been used for the last 10+ years in order to accommodate the late Don Anderson's weather reports from Oxnard. Our start time will remain at 1400 Zulu, and we still have a weather report at 14:15 Zulu."

In other radio news, Mark Schneider of the Portland-based Norseman 447 Wendaway, the acting manager of the Southbound evening net, wants to remind everyone that they meet nightly and serve the cruising fleet traveling the outside of Baja, through the Sea of Cortez, south to Central America, and as far out as they can be heard in the South Pacific. "We start at 0100 Zulu, and our primary frequencies are 6.516 mHz (USB) and 4.149 mHz. I'm also trying to write a short history of the Southbound Net, so if anybody has any information, I'd appreciate hearing from them at . My current understanding is that it was started in the mid-'90s by a Canadian cruiser and by the late '90s had as many as 100 vessels checking in."

"I saw the story from Sea Dream about our dinghy and outboard being stolen at San Juanico, Baja," write Eric and Caroline Stephan of Indara, a Norseman 447 from Gig Harbor, WA. "The night they got stolen was the first night in 13 years of sailing that we'd left them in the water! I was repairing the outboard crane and said to myself, "San Juanico is about as mellow a place as there is." So I didn't put the outboard on the boat. Did we ever pay for that bad judgment! Since so many cruisers read 'Lectronic and Latitude, here's a brief description: The dinghy was a grey AB 9-ft inflatable with a fiberglass floor and two dinghy wheel brackets in the stern. There were also two metal loops epoxied to the sole to hold black webbing for the gas tank, and two extra 'D' rings on the side of the port tube for a lifting strap. The outboard was a two-year-old Tohatsu 9.8 HP, painted flat black, with attached duct tape. There are two stainless loops mounted on each side of the cover for lifting. We can be reached at ."

Forget cruiser dinghies, thieves want big four-strokes!

"On the night of May 15, twelve fishing pangas went missing from their shallow-water moorings at the San Evaristo anchorage between Loreto and La Paz," reports Wendy Cummings. News of the theft was broadcast to pangueros and cruisers alike throughout the day on VHF radio. That afternoon four stripped pangas were found floating in the waters of the San Jose Channel. All the gear, including outboards, was gone. The targets of recent thefts seem to be fuel-sipping big 4-stroke engines. The thieves take the boats offshore long enough to strip the boats of the outboards and gear. In a few cases, stolen pangas were discovered high, dry and stripped on mainland Mexico. In other cases, the pangas are reported to have been sunk by the thieves.

"The following day, the San Evaristo pescadores met with authorities, including Governor Marcos Covarrubias, in La Paz. A press conference was held to let the whole country know that such thefts were on the upswing. There had been a similar theft of six pangas from the waters of La Paz in March. The thefts are devastating to the locals, as in many cases fishing is a family's sole means of support. Further, most pangas are shared by two or three families, with the fishermen trading days or shifts to make the most of the panga. The Mexican government is helping the pangueros with a credit for up to 50% of the estimated replacement cost, but some will have to wait as long as two months for new pangas to be built. Steve and Charlotte Baker of the Sonoma-based Catalina 27 Willful Simplicity, who are long-time supporters of the villagers of San Evaristo, are looking for those of us more fortunate to lend a hand. If you'd like to help, email Tom and Jeanne of the Seattle-based Islander Freeport 36 Eagle: .

Missing the pictures? See the June 2013 eBook!


'Lectronic Latitude | Download the Magazine | Crew List & Party
Calendar | Letters | Changes in Latitudes | Features
Classy Classifieds | Place a Classy Ad | Advertisers' Links | Display Advertising
Links | New Stuff | Subscriptions | Distribution | Contact Us | Home
  The West's Premier Sailing & Marine Magazine.
© 2015 Latitude 38 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.