|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.
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
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
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
- lower surface air pressure, which makes it easier for storms
- warmer ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, which favor
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 latitude38.com.
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
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
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
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
- mike & chris jordan
JoJo - 32-ft Fisher
Jonathan & Joell White
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
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
We have a few pointers for folks planning to cruise south this
- 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
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
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
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 www.aqis.gov.au
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
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 http://travel.state.gov 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 www.balimarina.com
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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 www.yachting-world.com.
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 www.latitude38.com. 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
"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: www.worldcruising.com.
Using the handy 'Changes Log In' form
at our www.latitude38.com
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
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.