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Changes in Latitudes

July, 2000


With reports this month on hurricane forecasts from NOAA and William Gray; from New Tricks on Ecuador and the Galapagos; from Rhumb Runner on returning to the Caribbean after nearly a decade; from Jo-Jo on the pleasures of Acapulco; from Dharma on chainplate troubles halfway to the Marquesas; from Solmates on the improved situation with regard to bringing pets into Oz and other countries; from Michelanne on early summer in the Sea of Cortez; and lots and lots of Cruise Notes.

Trying to Reason
With Hurricane Season

In the Atlantic/Caribbean

According to NOAA scientists, residents of the Caribbean Islands and the Gulf and East Coasts of the United States should expect more hurricanes than normal during this year's June 1 thru November 30 'season'. In addition to more hurricanes, scientists say they wouldn't be surprised if the hurricanes weren't also stronger and longer-lasting. It must be remembered, however, that hurricane forecasting is an imprecise science.

Historically, the Atlantic-Caribbean region has averaged nine or more tropical storms a year, seven of which reached hurricane strength. Of the hurricanes, three or more have been Category III - which means at some point their winds were in excess of 110 mph.

According to Dr. James Baker of NOAA, "The greatest influences in this forecast continue to be the ongoing La Niña and the lesser-known climate phenomena of warmer than normal Atlantic Ocean temperatures that affect hurricane activity over very long time scales. La Niña is defined by cooler than average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. During last year's hurricane season, La Niña was bold and clearly defined, and gave forecasters more certainty. This year La Niña's end is in sight. Even if La Niña fades by August as the current forecast suggests, La Niña remnants and other influences will still likely bring more storms than usual."

According to NOAA, the above factors contribute to a global atmospheric circulation pattern ripe for hurricane activity because they tend to create:
- a lower wind shear, which is critical for hurricane development.
- a more favorable mid-level jet stream from Africa, which energizes developing storms.
- lower surface air pressure, which makes it easier for storms to develop.
- warmer ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, which favor stronger storms.

Last year there were 12 named storms in the Atlantic-Caribbean. Five of them - Bret, Floyd, Irene and Tropical Storms Dennis and Harvey - hit the United States and claimed 60 lives.

Besides NOAA, the other big name in hurricane forecasting is William Gray and his associates at Colorado State University - by the sea? Gray, who frequently grouses about not getting federal funding for his studies, predicts "a year of expected continued above average hurricane activity, and Florida - East Coast landfall." Proving that hurricane forecasting is an extremely inexact science, Gray has a whole different set of reasons for making basically the same prediction as NOAA: "Predictors include two measures of Western Sahel rainfall during the prior year, the phase of the stratospheric Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) of zonal winds at 30 mb and 50 mb, extended range estimates of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability, the October-November and March strength of the Azores high surface pressure, and the configuration of broad scale Atlantic sea surface temperature anomaly patterns." All right.

You know how monkeys often pick stocks as well as or better than the best market analysts? It seems as though the same thing could be true with hurricane forecasting. So we'll play the 'monkey' to NOAA and Gray by predicting just seven named storms this season, with only four of them reaching hurricane force. In other words, an unusually inactive hurricane season. Come November, we'll see who the real experts are. For more detailed information on NOAA and Professor Gray's predictions, see the April 7 and May 10 entries in 'Lectronic Latitude - which is accessed via

Now, how about a prediction for the Mexican - or more properly, Eastern Pacific - hurricane season? To our knowledge nobody even bothers to make such predictions because those hurricanes, as opposed to those in the Atlantic/Caribbean, almost always head out to sea and away from population centers.

- latitude 38

New Tricks - Catana 42 Cat
Tricia McNulty & Tim Sevison
Isla Isabella, Galapagos and Ecuador

Trusting this letter to the Ecuadorian mail service is like putting it in a bottle and throwing it overboard - but we'll hope for the best.

Seemingly cheered on by thousands of marine iguanas perched on the black volcanic rocks, each day boats slip away from Villamil on the southeast corner of Isla Isabella, Galapagos Islands, bound for the Marquesas. The busy preparations and the buzz of excited voices preceding departure reminds us of an international yacht race that has a staggered start. Three boats leave one day, five the next, and so on. It's our observation that the Germans always leave as a group, and the French - who can never agree on anything - always leave alone.

With the great new cruisers-welcome policy in the Galapagos allowing all yachts to visit for at least 20 days, most cruisers have been taking advantage by visiting at least three of the islands, taking land tours, hiking, and diving. It's also possible to swim with the seals, observe blue-footed boobies, and visit the giant tortoises. And after all that, the cold and inexpensive 16 oz. beers taste mighty good!

One theory suggests that the tortoises first came to the remote Galapagos from the mainland of South America by floating on rafts made up of wood or vegetation. Floating over from Ecuador is pretty much what we did with our catamaran.

We suggest that anyone sailing from Panama to the Galapagos stop at Manta, which is on mainland Ecuador. There are a number of reasons: it breaks up one long passage into two manageable legs, it's pretty much on the way, diesel is 30 cents a gallon, there are fresh provisions, and there are endless possibilities for inland travel. We found the staff at the Manta YC to be most welcoming. Few sailboats stop in here in the first place, so our catamaran was all the more unusual.

Manta is the largest tuna producing port in the Pacific, and curious fishermen often passed by to wave and have a look at our unusual boat. Two of the more curious turned out to be Dario Herrera and his father, the owner of Lorelei, the only Ecuadorian-flagged sailboat in Manta. As it turned out, Dario's father is a journalist - which may have had something to do with the fact that we were front page news in the next day's paper.

The Ecuador economy is in a sad state, so those with dollars find life and travel there to be incredibly inexpensive. Meals in the best restaurants are only $2 U.S., for example, while four-star hotels rooms are just $25 U.S. The scenery from Quito to Cotopaxi was spectacular, and the warmth and friendliness of the Ecuadorian people is exceptional. Typical to our experience in Latin America, Bubba, our Portuguese Water Dog, was welcomed into most hotels. He also loved frolicking in the Andean snow at almost 15,000 feet. While in Otavalo, we got into a long bargaining session with a local Indian - who wanted to swap a llama for Bubba!

While we limited our Manta-based excursions to Ecuador, other cruisers expanded their travels to include Peru and Chile. Thanks to the safe moorings and security at the Manta YC, and the affordable airline fares from Quito, it was all quite possible. While travelling inland is a great time to have your boat waxed and polished, varnished, and have the bottom-cleaned. But unless you're refitting a tuna boat, don't expect any of the chandleries to have what you need. And if they do, you must have at least a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish to purchase it, as very few Ecuadorians speak any English.

The best way to get from Panama to Manta is to leave the Perlas Islands in a strong norther, which with any luck you'll be able to ride to within about 100 miles of Manta. Charts for the area are available at Isla Mirada in Balboa. Once you leave Manta for the Galapagos, figure on 540 miles to Wreck Bay.

After almost three weeks of spectacular scenery, incredible animal life, and inexpensive meals ashore shared with sailing friends, our biggest fear is that we may have become spoiled. So tomorrow we dust off the sails and head west toward Hiva Oa - and some of the most expensive islands in the world!

- tricia & tim 4/17/00

Rhumb Runner - Pearson 424
Mike & Chris Jordan
Carriacou Race Week
(Walnut Creek)

After a major refit in Ft. Lauderdale, Rhumb Runner left for a three-year jaunt around the Eastern Caribbean. In the early '90s we'd done a two-year cruise around the Eastern Pacific and Western Caribbean. A lot of our cruising friends warned us that we wouldn't like the 'new' Eastern Caribbean, as it's more crowded, more expensive, and generally filled with charter boats. While all this is somewhat true, we've been very pleasantly surprised with how much we have enjoyed the 'civilized' Windwards and Leewards.

Our trip down from Florida and through the island chain was along the dreaded 'Thorny Path' - and turned out to be a piece of cake! We especially enjoyed the Dominican Republic. We could have easily spent a whole season there, as everything is reasonably priced and both the island and her people are very beautiful.

The key to our enjoying a pleasant trip down the 'Thorny Path' was religiously sticking to the advice given in Bruce Van Sant's excellent book Passages South. We never had a bad sail - and this included crossing the dreaded Mona and Anegeda Passages. Another big help was David Jones' Caribbean Weather. Jones is an ex-cruiser who provides excellent weather forecasts. For $100 a year he'll even personalize it with routing and timing information. Cruisers can check into his net on 8104 at 0830.

But the real surprise for us was hearing about Carriacou Race Week and Grenada Carnival. We learned about both of these fun events from John and Melody of Second Millennium. The couple have been cruising the Caribbean since '94, and she does an excellent job of hosting the Caribbean Safety and Security Net right before David's Weather Net.

Carriacou is part of the country of Grenada, and hosts a sailing regatta in mid-July. Island boats from all the Windwards participate in this three-day event. Racing classes range from large inter-island cargo sloops to small two-man wooden boats. There was even a 'yacht' division that boasted 17 cruising boats. There are about five races in each division, and the participants take it seriously because a lot of money changes hands on the beaches. The whole island comes out to cheer the local favorites.

Among the celebs at the Carriacou Regatta was Foxy from BVI's Jost Van Dyke, and 'Rasta Vaughn' - who was made famous in Jimmy Buffet's book A Pirate Looks at Fifty. After the races there are awards - and drinking 'till dawn. Over 80 boats participated, and the winner in the 'yacht' division was Windborne, a Beneteau 38 from Rockledge, Florida. Their prize was a case of Mt. Gay rum - which was appropriate.

After the regatta is over and hangovers have been nursed, everyone headed down to Grenada for their Carnival. Although it isn't as big as the one in Trinidad, it's a spectacle that shouldn't be missed. There is steel drum competition including bands with 100 members, all night jumps-ups, and a parade on Tuesday that's viewed by nearly the entire island. Elaborate costumes and custom made music - each song is created for only this carnival - make it a kaleidoscope of sound and colors. Grenadians sure know how to party! Over 100 cruising boats participated, including Zorrana and Nepenthe, a couple of boats from the Bay Area.

After Carnival in Grenada, a lot of cruisers continue south to Trinidad to wait out the hurricane season. But if you keep a watchful eye on the weather, you can also hang out at Carriacou and/or Grenada. They've only been hit by one hurricane in the last century.

- mike & chris jordan 5/25/00

JoJo - 32-ft Fisher
Jonathan & Joell White
Acapulco Town

We'd only intended to stay in Acapulco for four days, but ended up staying four weeks. That's not such a big surprise, however, as we were going to hurry through Mexico in just four weeks - but ended up enjoying four months. Now that we find ourselves up a lazy river in western Panama for hurricane season, we'd like to share some insights on Acapulco and other topics.

For us, Acapulco had always conjured up visions of continuous parties, Bogie and his friends dancing the night away, wild revelry and fancy yachts. Some of this does go on - especially during Spring Break, when thousands of the more affluent college kids descend on the beaches. But for the cruising sailor, Acapulco offers many different and exciting possibilities.

We made much better time than we had anticipated, covering the 135 miles from Z-town to A-town, and therefore arrived off the sparkling, jewel-like skyline about 0230. Normally we don't enter new harbors at night - especially without radar, and our boat is one of the few in the fleet without it. But the entrance looked straightforward, there was a good moon, and we had entered a waypoint route that would take us right to the anchorage. So we made it in without any problem.

The small boat anchorage in Acapulco Bay is tucked around to the left among a myriad of mooring buoys and a dozen unlit boats on the hook. After a couple of attempts to set the hook in the soft mud, we turned in and waited to see what the city would look like in daylight. There's no doubt that Acapulco has an exciting skyline, dramatically changed from its heyday in the '50s. In the morning we could see the high-rise tourist hotels in the distance, while the rest of the city seemed to climb up the sides of the surrounding mountains.

Having been anchored between the Acapulco YC and the newer La Marina, we decided that La Marina looked a bit funkier - and therefore more inviting. We squeezed into an open slip - JoJo is 13 feet wide and the slip was only 14 feet wide - and then made our way up to the office. There we met Gisele, who would prove to be the most helpful, knowledgeable, and pleasant dockmaster we've encountered in nearly 30 years of cruising to foreign ports. During the next month, Gisele and her staff went out of their way to help us, no matter if it was with shipping, locating parts, suggesting things to do, or taking care of my mother who came to visit. Gisele does this for all the visiting cruisers, so we can heartily recommend the facility.

The berth fees at La Marina are $0.55/foot. There is electricity, but everyone had to share one water hose. No problema, as all the tenants had a good attitude. The marina's swimming pool was absolutely fantastic, and so were the drinks that were served around it. Transportation to downtown Acapulco was easy on any one of the many 'disco buses', which race around the city while blasting music and flashing lights. The buses cost three pesos - about 30 cents - to ride as far as you'd like. The luxury air-conditioned buses, the choice of most yachties, cost four pesos. But we thought it was more fun to ride with the locals in the cheaper buses. One night, after Joell, Mum and I had enjoyed dinner in town, we took the king of disco buses back to the marina. Joell called out "buenos noches" to the driver as she stepped off the back of the bus. Everyone on the bus turned around to her, smiled, and returned her salutation!

Acapulco's Central Mercado area, which is off the main tourist track near the Zocalo (center), offers just about anything the cruiser could need in the way of provisions and supplies - other than boat parts and stainless fittings, of course. The latter are only available at the yacht club marine store at very high prices.

While at La Marina, we had the good fortune to meet Edmundo, whose son-in-law had just put a 30-foot boat into the marina. A retired 81-year-old professor from an old Mexican family, Edmundo was determined to show us an Acapulco that few get to see. One of the best things he introduced us to was the Galeria Costa Club, which is run by Marcelo Adano at 123 Costera M. Aleman. This is a cultural museum dedicated to showing people how the Acapulco region of the Pacific Coast has been developed over the last 500 years. Adano also builds the most amazingly detailed model sailing ships that I have ever seen. If you're ever in Acapulco, don't miss his place. Edmundo also took us to hear his friend Jaime Colin play the guitar outside at the Hyatt Hotel. I've heard Segovia play - and I think he could have learned a couple of things from Jaime!

Other attractions in Acapulco include the wonderful Papagallo Park along the waterfront. The park has a boating lake, children's playground, fun fair, and a huge aviary with lots of exotic birds and monkeys. With its unique ambiance, it's easy to visualize lovers strolling through it for the past few decades.

Later we joined Edmundo for a visit to his home town of Cuernavaca, which was about four hours away in the mountains. It's a magical place. One of Edmundo's 14 children has a horse ranch outside of Mexico City, so after missing our horse for two years, Joell got to ride again. It was more magic! Later, while having dinner with our hosts in a small town near Mexico City, we were served eskimoles, the Mexican equivalent to caviar. It sounds as though they might be little eskimoles, but they're really ant eggs. After a copious amount of tequila, we got up the courage to sample them - and they were delicious. After all that tequila, anything would have tasted fine.

Back at the marina in Acapulco, we hired a small, wiry man - who spent all of his free time exercising - to clean our bottom. He did a superb job. Later we learned that he is 82 years old! The main reason we stayed in Acapulco so long was so that I could install a new autopilot. As we finally departed, we saw a magnificent looking sight - a big square rigger about a half mile away with her crew furling her sails. After a quick look in the binoculars, I quickly recognized her as the Californian. We raised her on the VHF and were told that she was heading for the Panama Canal and a summer on the East Coast.

After a long, windless trip, we're now in Panama. We'd also intended to go through the Canal, but went up the river to put into Pedregal instead. We've already fallen in love with Panama and her people, and have therefore decided to stay for hurricane season. We're even thinking of doing charters in the San Blas Islands next winter.

We have a few pointers for folks planning to cruise south this fall:
- Bring earplugs. Anywhere in Mexico where there is a waterfront hotel, you'll be inundated by jet-skis being operated by tourists who don't have a clue how to operate them. In fact, Joell is now working on an AJSD - Anti Jet Ski Device - that resembles a catapult capable of hurling rotten tomatoes.
- Take the time and make the effort to learn basic Spanish. It will show respect for your host country, and will make your visit easier and more enjoyable. We've been amazed at the number of Americans who come down here without having tried to learn even a few words of Spanish.
- Don't treat Mexico or Central America as an 'American Disneyland'. These are real countries with different cultures and ways of doing things. Respect them.
- We were never asked for the Mexican fishing licenses we'd spent $183 to get, so we wouldn't bother getting them next time. But we're not going to be responsible if you get caught without them.
- Every small town has at least one Internet cafe. They range in price from $10/hour at Cabo San Lucas - what a rip-off! - to just $1/hour here in David, Panama.
- We sailed right by Costa Rica. After talking to our friends who did stop, we apparently didn't miss much. The anchorages were said to be few and far between, and there have been some problems at Puntarenas.
- If it's isolated tropical paradises that you're looking for, mainland Panama and her nearby islands have what you want.

- jonathan & joell 6/7/00

Readers - Two comments. Costa Rica is, in our opinion, often overrated. Nonetheless, we think it would be a major mistake to sail right by. We also think cruisers who carry fishing gear in Mexico have a responsibility to purchase the appropriate fishing licenses.

Dharma - Westsail 43
Don & Sally Don Branch
Problems In Mid-Pacific

We're currently at 5º18'N, 129º34'W - and among the stragglers on this year's Mexico to Marquesas run. The reason we're this late is because of a number of unforeseen problems - something most cruisers will understand. And now we've got even more problems - but I'll get to them in a minute.

If all goes well, the sail from Mexico to the Marquesas should be a long reach on starboard to the equator, followed by a long reach on port to the Marquesas. But so far it's been a nasty trip for us because there haven't been any northeast trades. On the contrary, we've had days of northerlies, westerlies and even southwesterlies - the latter meaning winds right on the nose! Furthermore, we've had big swells, confused seas, and lots of squalls - particularly during the last couple of days. And today was the first time we've seen the sun in what seems like ages!

On the 13th day, things went from bad to much worse. First, the wind died completely, leaving us to wallow in 10-foot seas. Then, after we dropped the headsails, the starboard forward chainplate broke. The chainplate! While attempting to remove the bolts so we could tie the turnbuckles in place, we were hit by fluky 25-knot winds while still wallowing in the big seas. While battling to stay on the right side of squalls in order to keep the rig up, the emergency rudder broke off our windvane - and disappeared! To top off our troubles, our three-year-old full-batten Kern mainsail ripped all the way along the first line of reef points.

It's been a very frightening and humbling experience. We'll document it with text and photos after making landfall. In the meantime, do you know of any place to get sails repaired in the Marquesas or Tahiti? Can you give us any other advice? We think we can get a chainplate from Bud Taplin of the old Westsail company. And the autopilot is still working, so we can deal with the windvane later on.

Today's forecast calls for the Northeast trades to reform at 135ºW - which is quite a ways in front of us. It didn't help that our chainplate repair required us to head backwards through the ITCZ for the better part of a day. But now we're motoring through doldrums. It's amazing, as now there is no wind whatsoever and the skies are blue.

It's nice to know we're not alone out here. The singlehanders aboard Vigilance and Ghilbe are a couple of days ahead of us - although the former has lost the use of his engine. Tim and Adrienne on Kiwel Meleya, another Westsail, are two days behind us.

Anyway, thanks for any assistance that you might be able to offer. My husband Don gets the hero award for perseverance and innovation in boat repair. And thank heavens for SailMail!

- don & sally

Readers - We advised the Branches that they might be able to get some kind of mainsail repair done by a member of the cruising fleet in the Marquesas, but that formal sail repair and boatyard facilities wouldn't be available until Papeete or Raiatea.

Solmates - Lagoon 55 Cat
Roy C. Foster & Chris Rodriguez
Now in Sydney, Australia
(Oakland, CA)

After a squally, seven-day, 1,200-mile close reach from Noumea, New Caledonia, Solmates, her crew and her two dogs arrived in Sydney, Port Jackson, Australia on December 2 of last year. We enjoyed a mid-passage overnight stop at Middleton Reef, which offers reasonably secure holding in sandy patches with fair protection from waves from all directions but the west. But it's a relatively spooky, quasi-lagoon, as there is no land at high water and the perimeter of the reef is highlighted by the rusting hulls of six large ships - a silent testimony to negligent navigation or inattentive watches. It's eerie.

In last September's Latitude, we promised updates on our continuing experiences with canine crew. At that time Australia and New Zealand were not even remotely on our itinerary, but significant civil, military and/or religious unrest in the Solomon Islands and Indonesia rapidly inspired us to visit Oz to wait out the Southern Hemisphere's December to April cyclone season.

Recent changes in Australian quarantine laws - primarily the one-month rather than six-month quarantine period - have made Australia a vastly more attractive destination for cruisers with pets. Reports from fellow cruisers in New Zealand suggest that a similar relaxation of quarantine laws have not yet been instituted. On the other hand, we hear that mother England has eased her ancient and restrictive quarantine laws.

Cruisers headed for Australia with cats or dogs have two options. The first is to anchor 'mid-water', keeping pets aboard at all times - which is often interpreted as meaning belowdecks - and to pay Australian Quarantine and Inspections Services (AQIS) approximately $100 U.S. per month to physically visit the vessel and confirm that the pet is still aboard and in good health. Inspections can be weekly or monthly, it varies with each official. Actually, we're not sure if it's $100 per pet or per boat. The second option is to apply for formal importation of the pet, which involves a minimum quarantine of four weeks - it used to be six months - provided the pet has no diseases, has microchip subcutaneous identification, is current on inoculations for rabies, Leptospirosis, and so forth (e.g. DHLPP shots for dogs). For further information check or telephone +61 (02)9625-4566; fax +61 (02)9832-1532.

Solmates selected the second option for several reasons: Our plan was to stay here at least six months, we wished to take the dogs ashore for exercise, we planned to have our dogs accompany us on extended car trips away from the boat, and most importantly, we wished not to risk problems with authorities should one of the dogs escape. One dog did escape, but was found two days later.

The total cost for our two dogs was approximately $2,000 U.S. - which included AQIS picking up both dogs (and delivering them to our boat post quarantine) at our initial check-in with Australian Customs and Immigration at Neutral Bay, Sydney, all application fees, kenneling or boarding cost, veterinary examinations, and the mandatory battery of blood tests. The AQIS quarantine facility which serves the entire eastern seaboard of Australia is located about 30 miles west of Sydney at Eastern Creek. Owners are only allowed to visit the facility on Tuesday afternoons. It should be understood that if a cruiser elects to import a pet on entry into Australia at any other city - such as the cruiser-popular Brisbane or Bundaberg - there will be additional charges for mandatory air transport to the AQIS quarantine facility at Eastern Creek. Figure on several hundred dollars each way per pet.

Sydney should not be missed! It is less than 200 miles additional distance from Noumea, and presents the opportunity to stop over at Middleton or Elizabeth Reefs - or even the paradisiacal Lord Howe Island. Every marine service is available in Sydney - although often in widely scattered locations - but at competitive prices to the USA. Marina prices can be dear, especially in the immediate downtown facilities. Prices are also dear during the Telstra Cup and Sydney/Hobart races in December. By moving away from the central business district one can find very reasonable marina opportunities as well as excellent rail, bus, taxi services.

Solmates is currently on a mooring at the Cammeray Marina, a mere 10-minute drive north of Sydney. The cost is less than $200/month, and it's adjacent to a tranquil and picturesque national park. The marina is focused on the cruising sailor and is a family run business operating straight from the heart. For more information contact Fran and Bunny Rabbitts, who are the proprietors, by .

Solmates will then sail north to Brisbane where friends from San Francisco will join us as we explore the 1,200 miles of the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands. Our plans are to continue around Cape York to Darwin, and then take our chances with Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand - before taking another break.

Civil unrest appears to be continuing in Indonesia. At this writing the hot spots are Aceh, Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), Maluku, Timor/East Timor, and infrequently, Lombok. Also, we understand this year's Darwin/Ambon race was canceled due to civil strife in Ambon. See for updates. For those interested in cruising Indonesia and are perplexed as to how to obtain their fabled and required cruising permit, officially termed a CAIT permit, check the website or Bali Marina directly. Solmates spent approximately US $150 for the permit, which was emailed to us within six weeks of application.

I could go on for hours on the pros and cons of our Lagoon 55, but Latitude did a reasonable job on the same topic in a recent issue. We have had several bouts with winds of 50 knots or more, and our cat was flawless - and reasonably comfortable. The only one who wasn't comfortable was a seasick prone crew who visited the wash basin so frequently that she took the first plane out upon reaching Niue!

When it comes to having dogs aboard, the level platform of a cat is the best way to go. In 1992 we sailed the Caribbean aboard my 70-foot Horizon sloop - but the dogs were never really happy. They always had their nails to the teak when we were heeled - which was all the time.

We are currently in Coff's Harbour, which is really a fine place. Our next stop is Southport. As our saga continues, so will our updates. And, with two large dogs aboard, rest assured there will be adventures! Cheers!

- roy & chris 6/10/20

Michelanne - N/A
Mike & Anne Kelty
Early Summer in the Sea
(Northern California)

When we left Mazatlan at the end of April to cross over to La Paz to start our summer in the Sea of Cortez, we encountered just enough wind out of the southeast to get in about 12 hours of sailing. But other than that, it was a putt-putt. Those who crossed the Sea later spoke of light and variable winds with a southerly component. Summer in the Sea of Cortez is marked by winds out of the south - as opposed to the northerly winds which predominate the rest of the year.

Toward the end of May, things got a little friskier, as brisk southeasterlies created five-foot seas for cruisers crossing the Sea of Cortez from Baja to San Carlos on the mainland. It also gave folks sailing from Loreto to Bahia Concepcion a real ride. While the wind varies in intensity, it's mostly been out of the south. In addition, the coromuels - the winds that blow out of La Paz and toward the islands at night - have been common since May.

The air temperature has warmed up to the high 90s, while the water temperatures vary depending on where you are. It's been averaging 68 to 73 degrees out in the channels, and about 71 to 73 in the anchorages. The exceptions have been Bahia Concepcion and the little peninsula to the east of it, where the water has been in the low 80s. But as soon as we passed Punta Chivato heading north out of Bahia Concepcion, the water temps fell back down to 71 to 73 degrees all the way up to Santa Rosalia.

If you can stand the coolish water and/or have a wetsuit and want to go after fish with a speargun, we've found that you have to get pretty far away from the popular anchorages to find anything of size. We did, however, see a few good sized fish at Isla Danzante, and other cruisers told us of taking some nice sized fish there and near the southwestern anchorage of San Juanico. But most Baja vets say the fish population has declined. So far the water is green and murky, so that might have something to do with it. The biggest surprise is that we haven't seen one triggerfish yet.

The last fish we caught dragging a line was a medium-sized sierra as we were coming out of the channel at La Paz. Others have caught yellow fin on a blue and white squid lure. But most cruisers say they've dragged lines for over 1,000 miles - and still haven't caught anything.

We saw some 'chocolate' clams along with a few pen shells near one of the islands in Bahia Concepcion. We saw more of the little butter clams, but they don't taste as good. Sadly, we've yet to see any of the free-swimming scallops like we did when we were here 12 years ago. Out in the channel across from Santo Domingo at the head of Bahia Concepcion, we did see 30 pangas with hooka rigs taking clams from 60 feet and deeper. The next day there were 50 pangas. When we were at Santispac, several pangas arrived loaded down with clams. The clams were then shoveled into boxes provided by the buyers.

Cruisers don't talk about catching lobster - which is, of course, illegal. But then nobody speaks of having seen very many, either. The ones we've seen have been very small. The large calamari are schooling, however, and folks have caught them with jigs. But the squid really know how to squirt, so you have to wear a bathing suit when catching them!

While there are lots of cruisers around, most of them tell us they're going home for the summer. A few are doing the 'Baja Bash' up the outside, but it's not been easy, especially north of Mag Bay. The majority of cruisers seem to have chosen to go up the inside of Baja to Punta Chivato or even as far as Santa Rosalia, and then cross over to San Carlos. Most are just putting their boats in dry storage and going home or taking their RVs land cruising. A surprising number are having their boats trucked to Tucson, where they are transferred to other trucks for points north and west.

So far we've only met a few who, like us, will be spending the summer in the northern Sea of Cortez, where we hope to find good hurricane holes as necessary. One Canadian woman admitted that she had a hard time not giving in to the herd instinct and going over to San Carlos and leaving the boat for the summer. But it's fine with us that those of us staying for the summer are only a small group. That just means there will be more room in the anchorages and, we hope, more fish.

- mike & anne 6/7/00

Cruise Notes:

Dennis and Sonja Russell of the Portland-based Kelly-Peterson 44 Golondria have been keeping tabs on the increasing number of disturbing incidents of violence against cruisers in the Western Caribbean. The couple - who left Seattle in July of '97, got married in '98, and are now in Guatemala's Rio Dulce - last month reported that the three French singlehanders aboard the vessels Le Thopaga, Le Moussaillon, and Bruitade Nabrassion have all been missing under suspicious circumstances for more than six months. Unfortunately, they have more bad news to report:

"The Honduran military, operating from the chartered private fishing vessel Silver Seas, supposedly keeps tabs on commercial fishing in that area of the Caribbean. But then they attempted to board Tony Chapman's Way Out near the Vivarillo Cays. Chapman is a singlehander friend of ours from Texas whose engine had quit at San Andreas Island, and he was trying to sail home when they tried to stop him. When he refused, they fired automatic weapons at his boat. After boarding his boat, they demanded money, which he didn't have. So they took his supplies. Tony was able to get off a 'Mayday' over the VHF, which was relayed to the U.S. Coast Guard. The Hondurans originally denied the occurrence, then acknowledged "a small shooting incident." After several days of silence, Tony, who had managed to get away, arrived in Fort Myers, Florida, where he was greeted by a full contingent of U.S. federales and the media.

"In another unpleasant incident, a Swiss couple cruising Venezuela was tied up, robbed, and had holes shot in their boat beneath the waterline. The couple managed to get free and beach their boat before they drowned. The Venezuelan government is assisting in an investigation. But the Rio Dulce is great, and we're enjoying ourselves to no end," the Russells concluded.

Unfortunately, we got a subsequent email from them: "Cruiser Steve Gartman was found dead aboard his boat Sea Lion at Mango Marina in Guatemala's Rio Dulce. He'd been shot five times, and it had been several days before his body was discovered. We don't know his nationality or any other details, but the Guatemalan authorities are said to be investigating. This incident took place just several weeks after a shooting occurred on a water-taxi between Livingston, at the mouth of the Rio Dulce, and Belize, when crewmembers suddenly pulled out automatic rifles and began shooting the passengers and the skipper. Those who weren't immediately killed either jumped overboard or were thrown overboard. The gunmen then left. Those who survived spent 17 hours in the fortunately warm water before being rescued by a passing fisherman. These incidents are starting to put a real damper on our enthusiasm for the Rio Dulce," say the couple.

While on the subject of violence against cruisers, England's Yachting World magazine is to be commended for their July 2000 issue story on piracy off Aden and in the southern Red Sea. When the subject is piracy, there are normally lots of unsubstantiated rumors and few facts. Not so with Danger Zone, which features numerous first-person accounts, photos of those involved or being held at gunpoint, and a list of the eight yachts that were victimized between April of '99 and March of 2000. Yachting World can be reached at

The Eastern Pacific hurricane season started prematurely when Hurricane Aletta produced 90 knots of wind in May - before the June 1 start of the 'season'. Tropical Storms Bud and Carlotta followed in June. Bud fizzled after 50 knots, but as we go to press Carlotta is blowing 100 knots but headed northwest away from shore. For details of these and all the rest of the tropical storms and hurricanes in Mexico and the Atlantic-Caribbean, visit our new 'Lectronic Latitude via By checking the index, you'll be able to get complete information - and a chart - on each tropical storm and hurricane of the season. By looking through the index, you'll also be able to find a link to NOAA's hurricane forecast for the rest of the year.

"You shall be known by the questions you ask," said some wise person. Fonatur, which develops large tourist projects in Mexico, recently passed out a survey full of questions to cruisers. Based on the questions they asked, it seems as though they are thinking about creating more facilities for visiting mariners. For example, they ask if the survey respondents would like it if they built a number of small marinas and/or shelters up and down the mainland and Baja coasts. They also asked if other new marinas should be built, and how much mariners would be willing to pay for berthing. Since the survey is far too long to be published in the magazine, you'll have to check it out in the June 15 issue of 'Lectronic Latitude

"I'd like to see more information on taking the 'clipper ship' offshore route from Mexico back to California, writes Mark Daniels of the Sausalito-based Jeanneau 27 Fantasia. "A guy from Seattle wrote an interesting letter about it in the April Changes, so I'm seriously considering this route as opposed to the Baja Bash when I return next year. After all, I prefer being way out there - and don't mind the extra time if the wind is abaft of the beam. Hope to see you this winter in Mexico - and for sure at the Banderas Bay Regatta."

Check out our feature story on the clipper route elsewhere in this issue. In addition, Jim Barden of the Morgan 28 Ann Marie reported that Hurricane Aletta formed just about the time he and others were starting the clipper route, so he bailed to La Paz. "It was a little late for the clipper route this year, so I'm going to spend another year in the Sea. The two boats that were travelling with me, Margarita with Bob, and Fredaleave with Guy and Toni, also gave up and were heading up the inside. Aurora and Pandora are further ahead and safely out of Aletta's path."

During the last year or so, we've been claiming that using the Panama Canal to transport small boats from the Pacific to the Caribbean and vice versa is a waste of natural resources - specifically, lots of fresh water. It turns out that we didn't know what we were talking about. Although it would seem to be common sense that it would take much more water to lock-through a small boat than a Panamax vessel that nearly filled the chamber, it's not the case. Craig Owings, Commodore of Panama's Pedro Miguel Boat Club, and who joined us for a recent sail on the Bay, explained that it's a common misconception - even among scientific types - as it takes exactly the same amount of water no matter how small or large the boat.

Meanwhile, Pete Swain stopped by what was left of the burned down Balboa YC in Panama. Rumors are flying right and left that the club will be rebuilt, but as yet there has been no final word. Owings reports that the Pedro Miguel and Panama Canal YC locations are both safe for the time-being, and that there's plenty of room for short and long term storage at the former.

"We picked up a
May Latitude at the West Marine store in Annapolis," write David Foulds and Amy Ensign of the San Francisco-based Ranger 33 Red Baron. "We think the cruisers' email Web list sounds like a great idea, so please include us. We left San Francisco in '96 and have taken our time cruising around to the East Coast. We're currently in the Chesapeake and heading up to Maine for the summer. Thanks for a great magazine." See, you don't have to have a big and expensive boat to enjoy cruising.

"After completing last year's Baja Ha-Ha," reports Howard Klein of the Vallejo-based Lagoon 410 Coconut Express, "Pam and I sailed down the Mexican coast to Barra de Navidad. At that point, my old employer contacted me via SailMail about managing a construction project in Puerto Rico. The offer was too good to pass up, so we put our cruise on hold and returned to San Francisco to set up the project. Our friend Jerry Peters, who crewed for us on the Ha-Ha, agreed to take Coconut Express through the Panama Canal to Puerto Rico. As of two weeks ago, we're back living aboard our cat in Palmas del Mar Marina. Jerry did a great job on a tough passage. We'll be here for two years, at which time we'll be resuming our cruise with a much bigger kitty. The best news of all is that West Marine has opened a store in Puerto Rico just like the ones back home..

In less good news, Russ and Sandy Elsner of the Huntington Beach-based Lagoon 410 Coastbuster report that their 12-year dream of cruising has gotten off to a rocky start because of electrical problems. Their letter is too long to print, but they feel they've been left to fall between the cracks of Heart Inverters, the builder, and B&G instruments - with a result that they've had to spend a small fortune on replacing parts and shipping, taxis and phone calls, and have wasted countless weeks of cruising in the process. "Bottom line," they write, "is if you own a Lagoon with factory-installed instruments, look for in-line fuses. If they're not there, install them. The good news is that after a seven-week delay, Sandy and I have continued our cruising adventure - albeit with an eye on the voltmeter. We made it as far down as Manzanillo, and more recently have been working our way north toward the Sea of Cortez with many new wonderful friends."

The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, or ARC, the granddaddy of all cruising rallies, appears to be as healthy as ever. Even though the event - which takes the fleet 2,700 miles from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean - doesn't start until November 19, more than 200 boats have already signed up. Last year's fleet of 235 boats will almost certainly be topped. Boats have to be between 25 and 60 feet. Most complete the course in 12 to 24 days. We did the ARC in 1995 with Big O and really enjoyed it. For details see:

Using the handy 'Changes Log In' form at our home page, Allen and Kate Barry of the Sausalito-based DownEast 38 Mendocino Queen report they are in Langkawi, Malaysia. "We left Sausalito in the fall 1993 for Mexico. In '94, we sailed to Hawaii, Palmyra, Fanning, Samoa, Tonga, and New Zealand. Since 1995, we've been to Fiji, Vanuatu, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomons, Micronesia, Guam - where we worked for two years - Palau, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. We plan on staying in the Malaysia/Thailand area for another year or so, doing land trips and scuba diving. We still find Latitudes around from time to time and also check you out on the Internet."

"We're back in the U.S. until early July," Jim and Ann Cate of the San Francisco-based Standfast 36 Insatiable report via the same form on the Latitude Web page. "Our boat is currently in Manly Harbour, Brisbane, Oz. Our winter cruising plans - it's winter in the southern hemisphere now - include Northern Vanuatu to New Caledonia for Pacific Arts Festival, then returning to either New Zealand or Oz for cyclone season. We're unhappy that political situations are preventing us from going to some of the places we wanted to visit, such as the Solomon Islands and Indonesia. Actually, we suspect the western provinces of the Solomons are probably still fine, as it's really just a tribal matter in the other part of the country. It's different in Indonesia, where religious and cultural differences can flare up anywhere at any time, and there is no short term resolution in sight."

The Cates, who were the subject of a Latitude 38 interview several years back - have been cruising for 13 of the last 14 years and still enjoy it. The only part they don't like is that they're no longer in their late 40s and therefore aren't as spry as when they started. The price of cruising hasn't changed too much, they say, although it always depends on where you are. "Australia has been inexpensive recently, and it's almost impossible to spend money in Third World countries." The Cates figure on about $13,000 a year for everything except airfares back to the States. Of course, there are occasional big financial hits. After five days of very strong winds near Lord Howe Island, and after the rudder of their vane "snapped like a carrot", they decided to heave to. A short time later, their mast - along with all their instruments, three sails, five winches, and other gear - went over the side. As best they can figure, the problem was caused by a faulty cotter pin. Since they were self-insured, they did a lot of the leg work and other stuff to replace all their gear. The total came to $25,000 U.S. - which we suspect is half of what it would have cost with an insurance job..

"We think it's a great idea to publish a list of cruisers' email addresses, as we'd love to get in touch with some long lost friends," write Conrad and Cheryl Ramalho of the Ventura-based Ericson Independence 31 Fiesty Lady. "We're currently in Fiji - hoping the coup doesn't get too nasty! But folks can ."

Bob Rowland, a Bay Area cruiser who took off cruising in the late '80s, stopped by our office in early June. Rowland purchased the Golden Gate 30 Kiana in Sausalito in 1982, and took the boat to Virginia in '85 when his job with the U.S. Geological Survey took him to the East Coast. When he became eligible for retirement in '88, he went for it, as he noticed too many friends dying of cancer. For the next 4.5 years, he sailed around the world, occasionally coming home to visit his wife Linda and parents. "She put up with it," he explains. Each time he'd come back, he'd recruit a friend for the next leg of the trip, so he never had to singlehand. Since finishing his circumnavigation four years ago, Rowland has done consulting in Indonesia and New Zealand, and kept his trusty little boat in Key West. "It's the strangest town on the East Coast, but unlike the rest of Florida, at least it's not 'God's waiting room'. And while it's hot enough in the summer to require an air conditioner, it's not too hot because it's surrounded by water."

Bob and Mopsy - no last name - formerly of the Hemet-based Puvieux 47 Nighthawk also checked in on our Web site. "Although we sold our boat in October of '98, we're still active on the West Coast ham nets. Just call WP2F on the Sonrisa, Chubasco, or Manana nets. But we did the Banderas Bay Regatta aboard Makai and Capricorn Cat, and the Loreto Fest aboard Ubetcha. Folks can reach us by .

"If you're cruising to the South Pacific and encounter a boat called Sam from England, we advise you to stay away," write Sid and Manuela Olshefski "in and aboard" Paradise, "because in our opinion they're crooks. Bart and Deby Day of the Long Beach based Spindrift 43 Day by Day accidentally ran into Sam while in Panama, and the owners demanded $25,000 for alleged damages. Incidentally, Day by Day is fiberglass while Sam is steel - and Day by Day didn't have any damage! According to maritime law, if you hit another boat, money can be demanded for damages immediately - and you have to pay. But if you pay right away, your insurance company is off the hook for reimbursing you.

"Bart and Deby told the owners of Sam that their insurance would take care of any damages, but that wasn't good enough for the English owners - both of whom are lawyers. They started yelling - and then hired a lawyer who succeeded in getting Day by Day impounded. As soon as Bluewater Insurance got involved, Bart and Deby weren't even permitted to see the supposed damages to the steel boat. But with the insurance company taking over for Bart and Deby, the owners of Sam dropped their monetary demands from $25,000 all the way down to $10,000 - which suggests to us they'd been scamming all along. To make a long story short, Bluewater is going to pay the claim right away to avoid having to hire $150/hr maritime lawyers in Panama to fight it. Oh yes, after they got hit, the owners of Sam told the Days that they hated Americans! It's too bad we have these kind of people in the cruising community, and we suggest that everyone avoid them, for forewarned is forearmed!"

As Latitude was unable to contact the owners of Sam, we must warn our readers that the above is only one side of a story. If the owners of Sam would like to present their side, we'd like to publish it. Normally, we try to avoid publishing one-sided versions of incidents, but this one raises some interesting issues. For one thing, if maritime law provides for damages to be paid immediately - and we're not so sure it's quite so cut and dried - there are good reasons for it. If that wasn't the case, what's to stop the guilty party from just sailing away and leaving the victims holding the bag? On the other hand, there is a long history in the cruising community of people trying to work such problems out, particularly if the offending party has demonstrated some sense of responsibility - such as having insurance. We've done damage to other boats while cruising and have had other boats damage our boat - yet we've always been able to settle things quickly and amicably.

One of the potential areas for big problems, however, regards what might be considered the appropriate repair of a boat. For example, Big O was once T-boned near her mizzen shrouds during Antigua Sailing Week. If we'd wanted to be persnickety assholes about it - for example, demanding that the entire hull be repainted and that the slightly dented chainplates and turnbuckles be replaced - the bill could have been run up to $40,000 or more. As it was, we were happy to settle for the $2,200 or so that functionally repaired the boat and had her looking pretty much as she'd looked before. On the other hand, what's fair if your boat is perfect and has a super custom paint job? Or if your boat is in crummy condition and you demand an all-new paint job? We don't know the answer to these questions, just that we're thankful they don't come up too often.

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