July, 2003

With reports this month from Beyond Reason on diving with whale sharks in Honduras; from Misty on a spring passage to Vancouver Island; from Aurora on crossing the Atlantic a second time; from Wanderlust on transiting the Panama Canal; from Velella on a very rough trip from New Zealand to Fiji; and tons of Cruise Notes.

Beyond Reason - Lagoon 38 Cat
Bernard Slabeck, Crew
Diving With Whale Sharks
(San Francisco)

Jerry Lumbard - vet of Baja Ha-Ha 2001 and owner of Beyond Reason - and I spent some of May at Utila, an island just west of Roatan, Honduras. The island, which is surrounded by a reef, is only three miles by eight miles, so none of the dive sites are very far apart. European backpackers know this as a very inexpensive place to dive, and with good reason. Open water certification is just $100 U.S., and I was able to rent a tank, and regulator for just $6 U.S. per day. No, that's not a typo! Refills were just $2.

The only town on Utila consists of one street that runs along the water's edge of the only large bay on the south side of the island. The street is lined with dive shops, funky hotels, restaurants, little stores, the post office and port captain. Naturally, there are some bars, too. Coco Loco, which is more like a dock with a bar on it, was the happening place when we were there. We'd tie the dinghy to the dock when we went to town. Most Americans in the area are cruisers, and there were about a dozen boats in the bay.

Utila has a reputation as being the place to be during a full moon because that's when the whale sharks hang out off the east end of the island. Fortunately, Honduras has passed some laws to protect these magnificient creatures, so tourists are only allowed to snorkel rather than scuba dive around them, and nobody is supposed to touch them.

David and Linda Lee of the Privilege 43 cat Expectation worked with a dive shop to arrange a trip for a dozen of us cruisers to see the whale sharks. It turned out to be an amazing, humbling, once-in-a-lifetime experience for me! We went out to a sea mound a mile off the East Point of the island to look for a boil of bonita. A 'boil' is just what it sounds like - hundreds of bonita jumping up and down and acting as if a 40-foot whale shark was chasing them. The whale sharks come straight up with their mouths open and actually break the surface of the water. As I understand it, the sharks aren't interested in the bonita, but rather the small krill on which the bonita are fishing.

After everyone started shouting that they'd spotted a boil, the folks in charge got all of us to hang our finned feet over the starboard side, poised for action. With us coasting at about two knots, the captain in charge yelled for everyone to jump in! We all did, and pretty much landed on top of each other. But suddenly, right in front of me among the clearing bubbles was a 40-foot spotted whale shark! What can I say, he was really big! He was also beautifully sleek and graceful. After looking at us tiny humans flailing around, he gently waved his huge tail and slowly faded into the depths. All of us divers were pretty satisfied to have seen this creature so close up, but then we did it six more times with a variety of whale sharks over the next two hours. While all this went on, David and Linda managed to get some pretty good video and still shots of all the action. They made a bunch of copies of the video and sold them to us for $10 each - and donated the proceeds to the Whale Shark Institute on Utila. I highly recommend the entire experience.

- bernard 5/15/03

Misty - Aries 32
Bob Van Blaricom
San Francisco To Vancouver Island

Late this spring we had an okay three-week trip from San Francisco to Vancouver Island, Canada - despite rough and cold weather, and a relatively geriatric crew. The three of us have a combined age of 218 years! The crew consisted of myself, 72; my friend Dr. Joe Alderson, who is 80 but in good shape; and Sharon Smalley, a 66-year-old grandmother who also owns an Aries 32. Sharon was hoping to get some offshore experience, and succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.

I figured that if we left before the California interior heated up, we might not have the strong northwesterlies so common in the summer. Unfortunately, it was an unusually wet, windy, and unsettled spring. We left the San Francisco YC on April 26 during a break in the weather - which didn't last for long. Starting out in a southerly - what could be better? - we sailed right past Bodega Bay. While off Noyo early the next morning, the wind began to rapidly increase in speed. By the time we got to Cape Mendocino, we were in a genuine storm, with driving rain and winds gusting to 40 knots - but still from the south. We ran very quickly under a double-reefed main and just a scrap of jib on the whisker pole. Just as I was about to call Joe up so we could drop the main, we gybed and broke the boom. It was a bit of a mess, but we carried on through the night with plenty of speed under the mostly rolled-up jib on the pole. The wind then started to ease up, and by mid-morning the next day we pulled into Crescent City.

There was no boatyard which could work on the boom, so it was fortunate that it had split at the gooseneck. Having lots of epoxy and hose clamps, we undertook the repair ourselves. The biggest problem was that it was so cold and rainy that I wasn't sure the epoxy would cure. But it did harden overnight.

The weather was better the next day, so we quickly put the boom back on and got underway again. With the wind still out of the south, we carried the breeze and a north flowing current past Cape Blanco all the way to Coos Bay, Oregon. But as we approached Newport, Oregon, the following afternoon, we were struggling against very strong winds that were finally coming out of the Northwest - and an overheating engine. After making it into Newport, I disassembled the waterpump and inspected the seawater strainer, but didn't find any problems. I concluded that the overheating had been caused by heeling over so far while motorsailing on port tack that more air than water was being sucked into the engine's raw water intake.

My little sister Jan and her husband live just down the coast, so the evening we arrived they came up and hauled us off to showers and a nice hot dinner at their house. It was still very windy out of the northwest the next day, so we laid over for a day to let the wind ease up. We played tourist and enjoyed lunch at the brewery near the harbor.

We had a mixture of wind on the next leg, which took us past the Columbia River, and managed to break the end of the spinnaker pole. By morning it was getting pretty rough, so we pulled into Grays Harbor seeking shelter. The harbor has a scary, shallow entrance, and a rather dismal appearance - particularly in the cold, rainy, windy weather. But it served its purpose, and allowed us to fix the pole with more of the epoxy-and-hose clamps treatment. In order to make sure the epoxy cured, we crammed the 14-ft pole into the cabin for the night.

By this time I had pretty much made up my mind that the weather was just too bad to continue up the west coast of Vancouver Island. But when we got to Cape Flattery the next night, the weather suddenly looked a lot better, so we continued on to Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. In fact, the weather was quite nice for several days, and since we now had some extra time, we visited a number of interesting anchorages - including Ucluelet, Hot Springs Cove, Queen Cove, Walter Cove, Klaskish Basin and Winter Harbor. These were places I had visited with Misty five years before.

When the forecast called for a gale, we got ourselves into Sea Otter Cove just below Cape Scott. It was well-protected and quite shallow with good holding, so we had no problem riding it out for a day. Getting around Cape Scott the next morning in the big leftover seas was exciting, but by noon we were over the shallow Nawitti Bar and into Bull Harbor on Hope Island. The following day we sailed down to Port Hardy at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, where we concluded our 1,060-mile trip. Looking to get away for some beautiful cruising where it's not crowded? We only saw two other sailboats the whole time we were on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The best addition to Misty for this trip was our new Dickinson diesel heater, which we had going much of the time. When we left Port Hardy to fly back to California, Misty's deck and the dock were coated with ice! I trust it will be a lot more like summer when my wife Jane and I return on June 13th to continue our cruise to Alaska.

- bob 6/6/83

Bob - That you, Dr. Joe, and Sharon could make the always difficult trip from San Francisco north to Canada is an inspiration not just to seniors, but to all sailors. We have three Latitude T-shirts that we'd like to present to you.

Aurora - Catana 581 Cat
The Bernhard Brothers
Antigua To Portugal

On May 5, we left Antigua on the 2,400-mile passage part of the way across the Atlantic to the Azores, and then the 900-mile passage to Lisbon, Portugal. The 'we' are David and Irmgard Bernhard, and their daughters Alicia and Jessie; Mark Bernard, David's brother and co-owner of the cat; Dominic Marchal, friend and crew from the Bay Area; and me, Susannah Carr. I hope this log might help give an idea of what a second crossing of the Atlantic is like with the same boat and most of the same people. We'd done the first crossing as part of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) last winter.

May 5 - Mark, Dominic, and I think perhaps it is best we leave Antigua now to enable ourselves to recover from Antigua Sailing Week. We raced on our friend Kristian's X452 with two Italian and two Dutch men. We were an eclectic group, swearing and joking in three languages as we raced between the big parties. For most of the week I was the only woman onboard with this group of what turned out to be very affable guys. My presence clearly didn't inhibit them though. "We're here on a men's sailing holiday," one of the Dutch men said. "Do you think we're going to let you ruin that?"

May 6 -What a great day, as we've covered 256 miles in 24 hours and are currently close reaching at 10 knots. We're all hoping that conditions stay like this for the entire trip, but we know that's about as likely as finding a margarita stand in the middle of the North Atlantic. We've had no significant seasickness so far, which is a marked contrast to our first days out of the Canary Islands when we did the ARC. The girls' science theme for the crossing is clouds, so we studied the different types of clouds, started recording the different kinds of clouds we saw, and even created our own cloud in a bottle.

May 7 - The wind is down to 12 knots apparent, so our boat speed has dropped to 6.5 knots. Having covered 423 miles, we give up hope for our '10 day crossing, new record for a 58-ft boat'. We console ourselves with the knowledge that 'boring is good'. Two things are different on this Atlantic crossing from our first one: nobody is doing any laundry, and we don't have Chris Maher crawling to and from the 'cave' - the forward cabin accessible only from deck. Jessie is adopting an enthusiastic seafaring attitude that she displays by running around and spontaneously yelling, "Call me Ishmael!"

Prior to leaving Antigua, Mark installed Aurora's third SSB radio in less than a year. Catana exploded the first, and saltwater destroyed the second. We make our first successful transmission with the new radio by calling our friends Daniel and Kristian aboard Toutazimut, a Formosa 51 - like the one in the movie Captain Ron. Both of us are on our way from Antigua to the Azores, but they started after us. This is the boat that was doublehanded in the ARC last year by brothers Dave and Phil Hicock. Phil went overboard, but despite being still attached to the boat, he died, and his body couldn't even be recovered.

May 8 - We've covered 590 miles so far, but have been motoring most of the day because the wind has dropped below five knots. Remember, boring is good. We spoke via the satellite phone to our friends Kristian and Daniel on Toutazimut. They are already heading east, which means they are cutting the corner of the Azores High. They still have 11 knots of wind, but may run out soon. Perhaps because it's been calm, we've had a number of on-the-water sightings today. Shortly after school was out at 3 p.m., we saw a pod of six pilot whales swimming around and slapping their tales. We also saw three cargo ships, a jet plane, some plastic, many pieces of seaweed, and two birds.

The watches are moving forward tonight. David is on from 1000-0200, Dominic from 2400-0400, Mark from 0200-0600, and Irm from 0400-0800. I have retained privileged position of 2000-2400. Sometimes being the teacher has its benefits.

May 9 - Most of the 158 miles we covered today was by motoring. There was no wind in the morning, and it only built very gradually. At about 1400 there was enough to set the sails. It sure is nice to sail as opposed to having to motor. We also attempted to fly the spinnaker off the sprit, but we didn't seem to gain much speed. At least our course is starting to have an easterly component, which is encouraging. Toutazimut reported over the SSB that they are 330 miles behind us but following our course.

It's curious, but despite the fact that each day goes by slowly, the week seems to be passing quickly. Again, maybe my being the teacher helps because my days are occupied with work. It's also interesting that there isn't the same feeling of excitement onboard as when we all sailed across the Atlantic the first time. I guess it's like driving back home - you've already been down the road once and know where you're going. So far this crossing has been quiet compared to the last one, which started out very rough, so we're all 'knocking on teak'. The mild conditions means there has been lots of time for camraderie and games.

Most of the fruit in the cockpit net has already ripened, and today Irm discovered rotten celery in the lazarette. Our dinner of kraut and smoked pork chops got us talking about the way people tried to fight scurvy in Captain Cook's day - by eating dried biscuits made of animal innards. Currently I'm reading The Life of Pi, which is about a boy marooned on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger for 227 days!

May 11 - We've now travelled just over 1,110 miles, and we expect to reach the halfway point in the middle of the night. The much promised breeze has finally arrived and is blowing in the 18 to 22-knot range, so we're starting to average 10 knots again. These are the numbers we like! You play a tricky game when you sail east toward the Azores, because if you sail too low you become becalmed in the Azores High, but if you sail too far north in search of wind, you can get hit by lows with 30 to 40-knot winds. Now that we've worked our way northeast, we've started to wear fleece at night and I pulled the comforter out of storage. The water temperature has dropped from 85° to 75°.

May 12 - We had lots of sailing action today. The 0200-0600 watch started off with a gybe because the wind - which had gradually built to a steady 30 knots - was starting to take us up toward Newfoundland. We ended up doing an 'all hands' spinnaker takedown at 0400, but it went very smoothly. Things calmed down in the early morning as we sailed with a double-reefed main and the Solent jib wing-on-wing, and it began to rain lightly. Alicia deserves a special mention for taking her science test sitting outside squeezed into the two square foot area that was dry but had rain falling all around her. At 10 a.m. a squall came through with the heaviest rain and strongest winds - 37 knots - we've experienced on this passage. The gusting wind broke the reefing line for the clew, leaving the main flapping. As the rain subsided, Mark, Dominic, David and I worked to rerig the line. Even simple tasks such as these are made more difficult by the rolling and pitching of the boat, slippery surfaces, and high loads. After the repair, the afternoon progressed more smoothly in lighter winds. We've gybed twice now and put the spinnaker back up as the forecast calls for motoring conditions tomorrow.

May 15 - With only 692 miles to go to the Azores, we've placed bets on when we'll arrive. I see that I've been negligent about the log. I wish I could say it was from business or excitement, but apathy is more accurate. Further, I have descended into an addiction of playing Hearts on my laptop. My eyes are starting to glaze over as I stare at the queen of spades. But again, we remind ourselves that boring is good. Right now the wind has built to 6.7 knots true from dead calm, but the sea is still incredibly flat. There has been little wind, and we want to make good time into the Azores as crewmembers have planes to catch. We can motor at 7.5 knots under one engine, but we keep the rpms down to 2,200 in order to conserve fuel. Friends Daniel and Kristian are making slow progress on Toutazimut and have fallen 600 miles behind us. They are concerned about running out of diesel, so they are sailing slowly in light wind. That's the danger of cutting the corner of the Azores High.

May 16 - Despite light winds, this turned out to be one of our most exciting days. Early in the morning we went by a medium-sized sea turtle that was lying very still in the water. When I saw its flippers moving gently with the current and a few barnacles attached to its shell, I thought for sure it was dead. Desiring a third look, we circled around one more time, and to our surprise it woke up when Alicia poked it gently with the boathook. What I thought was a dead sea turtle was actually a sleeping sea turtle! A short time later we came upon a free-floating buoy marked "VHF Captain Kel. 102-762-2413". We salvaged the buoy and tried the phone number, but the call didn't go through. These two events were already more than had happened the day before, so we were feeling pretty good. The best, however, was yet to come.

As he was about to unfurl the genoa, Mark heard the whiz of the starboard fishing rod. "Fish!" he yelled. The girls and I raced outside of the cabin, and so began the epic battle. Beads of sweat were protruding from Mark's forehead as he tested his endurance against the mighty animal. It tried to race ahead of the boat, but we artfully turned to keep him off our stern. After 20 minutes of fighting and simultaneous debating on how to land the fish, we gaffed and pulled aboard a swordfish that was in excess of six feet! It was the biggest fish I've ever seen outside of an aquarium. Irm and Mark made quick work of turning it into massive filets. The cleanup took much longer.

After lunch, the girls performed their Simpsons puppet show to a packed house - three people. Just when we thought we'd have time for a breather, we spotted a whale, then some Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins. And just when I thought we were settling down for the night, Mark learned there would be a total lunar eclipse at midnight. It took an hour for the moon to become completely obscured, but when it did, the bottom of the boat glowed a psychedelic green from the phosphorescence. It was the brightest phosphorescence any of us have seen. The green stream of Aurora's wake was like something on a Grateful Dead poster.

May 18 - We continue to motorsail our way across the Atlantic. Currently, I am reading a biography of John Adams. He sailed across the North Atlantic in February on his way to France to help negotiate treaties during the Revolutionary War. His voyage took six weeks, a short time for a winter passage in that era. As he sailed, he wrote the following in his journal: "All we see are clouds, sea, and sky, and then sky, sea, and clouds." We all know that feeling. After dinner tonight we watched Cutthroat Island starring Geena Davis. A DVD player on long passages such as this is a godsend, as it provides hours of mindless entertainment.

May 19 - With only 73 miles to go to our stop in Horta, I thought today would be interminable - but it didn't pass that slowly. When we get to Horta, we'll only stop for 24 hours. We'll just have enough time to do laundry, check email, and eat I suppose. I passed the time today in the usual way - reading, sleeping, chatting, watching The Sopranos, and playing Hearts on my computer. Tonight there have been two ships on the radar during my watch. I've been practicing using the electronic bearing line and variable range marker functions to get ready for the second leg to Portugal, where ship traffic will be heavier.

May 20 - Oh land, how you tempted us! It was only with great willpower that we were able to pull ourselves away from Horta today at 1430 to set off for Lisbon, a 900-mile sail. Horta was an attractive, very clean town. We ate dinner at a fun restaurant that gives all the guests very hot slabs of rock on which to cook their main course, be it beef, fish or pork. Although our break on shore was welcome, 24 hours was too short. We leave with the knowledge that this is the final major leg for the season - at least my season. We finally have enough wind to sail - 18-20 knots - once again, and we're close reaching at close to 10 knots.

May 22 - After two days of sailing, we have again resorted to the engine. We have about 8 knots true, not enough to get twenty-six tons up and moving in any convincing way. We expect the breeze to fill in again tomorrow and shift to the north, enabling us to reach down into Lisbon. The Aurora school year is wrapping up. Today was the last day of serious work, excluding two tests the girls have on Monday. Tomorrow is fun day, and Monday is cleanup after the tests. I can't write anymore in the log today as I have an irrepressible urge to play Hearts!

May 23 - For fun in school today we made mutton meringues - in the shape of sheep. We also combined all our social studies trivia questions into one massive game. After lunch, the final activity was watching the movie Coming to America. This afternoon we picked up a hitchhiker, a pigeon we have named Sam. It has three bands on its legs, so we suspect he/she is a carrier pigeon. We've written a tiny note, and now we are debating on how best to catch the bird and put the message on. Mark is for grabbing Sam quickly from behind, while I am in favor of a more benign approach. When the wind picked up later in the afternoon and the genoa got noisy, Sam flew off.

- susannah 6/10/03

Readers - Susannah's log thus ended abruptly. We do know, however, that Aurora completed the passage to Lisbon - a total of 3,300 miles in 19.5 days, or about a 7-knot average. When they later got to Barcelona, 4,150 miles out of Antigua, the boat damage on the trip had been limited to a parted reefing line and a couple of burned out lightbulbs. Not bad at all.

Wanderlust - Hunter 466
Mike Harker
The Panama Canal
(Manhattan Beach)

After reading about and listening to all the horror stories regarding the Panama Canal, my excitement about my upcoming transit was mixed with apprehension, a fear of the costs, and worries about possible damage to my boat. What a relief - and feeling of accomplishment - to have transited the Canal with absolutely no problems or complications.

My one crew and I arrived at Cristobal on the Caribbean side of Panama on a Saturday morning from Aruba. We dropped the hook in The Flats - also known as Anchorage F - and took the dinghy around the corner to the Panama Canal YC. There were about 50 boats at the nice docks, a dinghy dock, and another 50 boats in The Flats. I looked for the small satellite Immigration office in the yacht club, but a taxi driver named Joseph told me they were closed on Saturdays. He offered to drive me to Colon and help me with all the paperwork.

I've travelled a lot, and am usually suspicious of taxi drivers, but Joseph wasn't pushy and seemed genuinely interested in helping a yachtie get through the Canal bureaucracy. When I asked what he charged, he told me, "Ten dollars an hour, and we'll need three or four hours." I don't know what a ship's agent would charge, but after 3.5 hours I know that I couldn't have done the same thing alone in less than two days! I was happy to pay Joseph $40. Joseph organized the admeasurer to come by my boat the next day, which was Sunday. He also arranged to get me the four 150-foot lines, and 10 tire fenders wrapped in plastic bags that the measurer needed to see. He also promised to get me the three needed line-handers - at $50 each - for the transit day.

On Monday, Joseph called Transit Authority, and a guy came to the yacht club with all the papers ready to fill out for the actual transit. After 30 minutes of paperwork, he said to call that evening for a transit schedule. That night Joseph called me on VHF Channel 70 and reported we would begin the transit on Wednesday morning, rafted to the 40-ft sailboat Vaya Con Dios, which would be side-tied to a Canal tug. This had been my request - but I hadn't expected it to be granted in just two days.

So at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, the three line-handlers came aboard, followed by the pilot an hour later. By 6 a.m., we were rafted to the Vaya Con Dios at the entrance to the first lock. Two tugs then brought the freighter Valiant around us, and connected her to the 'mules' - special locomotives to pull the ships - to bring her into the first lock. Another huge container ship took up the parallel space across the center divider from us, and we moved to side-tie to the tug that would accompany the freighter into Lake Gatun.

We followed the freighter and her tug a total of 85 feet up in the three locks, and into man-made Lake Gatun. This lake serves as the gravity feed for all the locks, which means water doesn't have to be pumped into them, which would take a long time and lots of energy. Once on freshwater Lake Gatun, we turned on the engine and untied from Vaya con Dios. Thanks to Wanderlust's engine being able to turn an oversize Fold-A-Prop at 2,800 rpm, we averaged eight knots for the next 24 miles, arriving an hour early at our first 'down' lock.

After lunch and a nap, the freighter and the Vaya Con Dios arrived for the down lock process. When downlocking, smaller boats such as ours enter the lock first. This took us right to the front edge of the lock - where it's over 30-feet down to the next level! There is a one mile gap between the first down lock and the final two. What separates them is Mirafores Lake, which is home to the Pedro Miguel Boat Club. It looked inviting as we passed. Unfortunately, you can't just stop there without the Canal's permission.

After we untied from our partner yacht at sea level on the Pacific Ocean side, we headed straight under the Bridge of the Americas. A pilot vessel took our pilot off as we were doing eight knots toward the Balboa YC.

My transit costs were as follows: Transit fee for a 50-ft boat, $600; damage deposit, $850. The 'buffer' or deposit would only be booked if anything happened during the transit. When the pilot leaves the yacht at the other side of the Canal, he declares "No Incident" via VHF, and only the $600 is booked from the VISA card. These fees include all the admeasure fees, paperwork, and pilot costs. The Panama Cruising Permit cost $30 and is good for three months. The visa stamp in the U.S. passport costs $10. A bucket of KFC and a case of water for the line-handlers and the pilot came to $20. There are no hidden fees. The taxi 'agent' cost me a total of $60 for the three days, including provisioning, laundry, and all port fees. Three days of anchoring in The Flats was free, but the Panama Canal YC did charge $2/day for the dinghy dock. The four 150-ft lines were $40 to rent; the 10 tires were $30 - but I sold them later on the other side of the Canal for $20! Three line-handlers - who returned the four lines to the yacht club - were $50 each plus $5 return bus fare. I gave them all $60, as they were great, professional, courteous and fun!

Guided to a mooring by the Balboa YC launch, I found the club's location to be very scenic - with the spectacular Bridge of the Americas, which connects the North American continent with the South American continent, in the background. Walking the long pier towards the Courtyard Hotel, I looked for the yacht club headquarters. It turned out to be just one desk back at the end of the pier in a little office above the walkway! They charged 35 cents/foot/day for the mooring, which included a 24-hour taxi launch service, security, showers, and the pool.

After three days, we moved around the long causeway connecting the mainland with the two-mile distant Islas Flamencos and their new yacht basin. It was just too rolly at the Balboa YC with all the traffic of the shipping lane not 50 yards away. The new Marina Flamenco is beautiful, protected, and has a very helpful staff. The floating docks are still under construction, but we picked up a mooring for 30 cents/foot/day. They have a 50-ton Travel-Lift, and I may get my bottom painted next week.

All in all, my Canal transit was a very rewarding experience. One of the highlights to my wandering lust to travel the open seas, I will remember it for the rest of my life.

- mike 07/07/03

Velella - Wylie 31
Garth Wilcox & Wendy Hinman
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
(Port Ludlow, Washington)

The Good: We've arrived safely in Fiji from New Zealand after almost two weeks. Neither of us was hurt and nothing on the boat broke. Other boats making the same 1,100-mile passage suffered broken rudder bearings, a broken forestay - both of those boats returned to New Zealand - ripped sails, lost solar panels and stanchions, along with engine and autopilot troubles.

The Bad: After examining weather faxes, we thought we had a reasonable weather window. We figured the high over New Zealand would block any lows from crossing our path, and leave us with light winds. Since Velella excels in light winds and flat water, we expected a decent trip in mellow conditions. Boy, did we mess up our weather forecasting! We failed to consider how intense the high had become, for intense highs can produce strong winds. During our passage a low developed to the north of us, creating a bit of a 'squash zone' of strong winds directly from the direction we were headed.

The first six hours of our passage were pleasant, but after that the wind continued to build each day. We experienced numerous squalls with heavy downpours, and had greatly variable winds. It was not uncommon for it to go from 10 knots or less to more than 40 knots, making sail selection a very frustrating process. In hindsight, we could have saved ourselves a lot of discomfort if we had diverted to New Caledonia - something we discussed many times. But we kept thinking we'd seen the worst of the weather, and hung on, intent on returning to Fiji. So we beat the 1,150 miles to Fiji in mostly 25 to 40 knot winds and 15 foot seas, with water continuously cascading over the boat. Upon arrival in Fiji, we had to wait on our boat for another 48 hours to avoid steep overtime charges.

The Ugly: Beating into strong winds and big seas is incredibly unpleasant. Our life aboard was reduced to the barest of essentials. Our time was mostly spent sitting up with our eyes open or lying down with our eyes closed - but always damp. Most normal passage activities - such as general hygiene, navigation, reading, sleeping, eating, enjoying candy snacks, and listening to the radio - were often too much trouble. To prevent water getting into the boat, we had all the hatches and openings dogged tight - which naturally eliminated all the ventilation. So clothes that got wet in the first six hours remained wet for the next 10 days. We also discovered leaks. Water could get in, but no moisture could get out, creating a suffocating, humid interior. Then we began to notice water accumulating on the floor in the head. It soon became evident that this wasn't just seawater, but saltwater-based sewage.

A description of the typical daily routine aboard reveals just how ugly it got: 1) Wake up - assuming sleep had been possible despite the jarring motion and noise; 2) Coat rear end with diaper rash cream; 3) Pull on soggy wet clothes, hopefully without being thrown into something; 4) Heat up something from a can; 5) Serve meal in cockpit with a single spoon, eating directly out of the pot; 6) Rinse pot and spoon in ocean and return to stovetop; 7) Sit in saltwater puddle in the cockpit for three hours, enduring regular saltwater dousings; 8) At the end of the watch, remove soggy wet clothing, open thru-hulls, bail sewage lake, pump manual bilge and sewage tank, close thru-hulls, disinfect hands, sponge down body with freshwater dipped wash cloth, wipe saltwater sewage off feet; 9) Climb into damp, smelly bunk and try to get some sleep. Repeat every three hours.

Upon arriving at Suva, which has a dirty harbor, we began nursing our bruises, tending to our diaper rash, and cleaning up the mess. Future plans? We suspended even thinking about them until we could purge the passage from New Zealand from our short term memory banks.

We've now been in Suva a few days, during which time we've been cleaning up from the passage. We had a gargantuan load of salty, soggy clothes for the laundry, we wiped everything down, we pulled all the canned goods out of compartments for inspection and cleaning, and investigated the sewage problem we discovered on the passage. So far, we have determined that the sewage lake only forms when the boat is put on her port side and shook violently, which causes the tank to leak backwards. The deck level anti-siphon loop designed to prevent sewage overflow was completely underwater the whole trip - despite the fact that through most of nine days we sailed with a storm staysail and three reefs in the main or no main at all!

We've been adjusting to the heat of the tropics, and enjoying a few of the pleasures of Suva: ice cream, cheap curry and Chinese food, cheap movies, cheap 'Bula' (aloha style) shirts, email, nice yacht club facilities at Royal Suva YC, an impressive vegetable and spice market, and delicious and reasonably-priced pineapples and papayas. Best of all, we're catching up with each other. For despite being alone together for nearly two weeks, it wasn't really quality time, and it feels as though we hardly saw each other. We were watches passing in the night.

The smell of Suva is unlike anywhere else - a mix of spicy grease and diesel fumes. But unlike in most big cities, the people are pretty friendly. Throughout the city we see the accepted business dress of bula shirts and wraparound skirts for the men, coordinated floral blouse/long skirt outfits for the ladies, and school uniforms and flip-flops for school age kids. Everyone is getting excited about the South Pacific Games that begin in about two weeks. Here in Suva, we can hear the BBC, New Zealand Public Radio, and Radio Australia on the local FM dial, and have really enjoyed the ease of perusing the stations to catch up on the recent news we missed. There are numerous embassies concentrated in Suva, so we can easily go about getting visas and cruising permits for our future travels.

Because the polluted harbor is downwind of the dump and crowded with rusty Taiwanese fishing boats running noisy generators, Suva is not the most beautiful place in Fiji. But the unpleasantness of our trip from New Zealand is starting to fade from our minds, and we're beginning to plan moving to a nicer anchorage where we can swim, snorkel, and better appreciate the beauty of Fiji.

- wendy 6/10/03

Cruise Notes:

Veterans of all the Ha-Ha's will be saddened to learn that Javier Zacatzi of the Vera Cruz Restaurant at the top of the hill at Turtle Bay, Baja - home to many great Ha-Ha first-stop gatherings - passed away of cancer on June 10. This is according to Russ and Isabel Harford. A good friend of Banjo Andy, the Grand Poobah, and many Ha-Ha participants, Javier was the very visible and gregarious manager of the restaurant owned by his mother Julia. Although the family will continue to run the restaurant and hotel, the next few Ha-Ha's won't be quite the same without Javier's smiling face behind the margarita mixer. Rest in peace, amigo.

"We've got some advice about selling a boat in Panama," report Steve and Gabby McCrosky of Big Bear and former owners of the Cheoy Lee 35 Karibu. "We had a great two months sailing from Punterenas, Costa Rica, to the Panama Canal. We stopped at four islands on the Pacific side of Panama, and especially loved Isla Coiba - which is a National Park and which has a penal colony. It was untouched and hands down the most beautiful island we visited. Our Canal transit went smoothly, and because our pilot was late we got to anchor in Gatun Lake for the night - a real treat. We had to get back to the States to work, so we left the boat at the Panama Canal YC and took a flight to Bocas del Toro in northern Panama on the Caribbean side for a little surfing. We totally fell in love with the place! It has crystal clear water, incredible surfing, and hardly any people. We surfed a left point break one day with nobody out but us and Neil of the Santa Cruz-based Vanguard 33 Tranquilo. So when we got back to the States, we decided that it didn't make sense for us to continue to own a cruising boat given the little amount of time we'd be able to use her each year. Chartering would be more cost efficient. Besides, things deteriorate very quickly in the tropics. So we had the Dockmaster put a sign on her listing her for sale. Within a month we had an interested party who'd seen the boat while going through the Canal. A month later she was sold and the new owner sailed her up to the Cayman Islands were he lives. The Dockmaster told me they sell quite a few boats out of the Panama Canal YC Marina. You can't get the same price as if you sold the boat back in the States, but we did really well. So Latitude readers should know that the Panama Canal YC is a good place to sell - and buy - cruising boats."

Farr 40 owner and IAAC helmswoman Mary Coleman - who was crew for David Crowe aboard his South Bay-based Choy/Morrelli 70 Humu-Humu in the last Ha-Ha - tells us that Crowe's catamaran suffered significant structural damage in mid-June after he and a crew headed north on an offshore route from Cabo were hit by very rough weather. Humu-Humu, which has sailed both ways across the Pacific and to Mexico and back several times, is a very big - 34-ft beam - and powerful catamaran that generates tremendous loads. Fortunately, Crowe and crew were able to limp back to Cabo, and will apparently try to make their way across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan where there are facilities to haul the big cat. Ironically, they'd just been there to have the topsides painted and other work done. In this month's Letters, a prominent multihull designer says there shouldn't be any problem sailing cats upwind in a gale. With all due respect, we couldn't disagree more strongly - and think it should only be attempted in life or death situations. Sailing a cat upwind in heavy conditions is extremely brutal on the boat and crew, making the chances of damage to the boat and/or somebody unnecessarily great. You wouldn't drive your car over a series of severe speed bumps at high speed, so why would you want to do it with your boat? Particularly one that is not inherently suited to do it.

"Europe is so great!" write Ken and Nancy Burnap of the new Aptos-based Amel Maramu Notre Vie. "The Coast of Spain was a blur of stop-and-go at various ports with beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, much of it was overrun by condos and high rise hotels. The notable exceptions were our trip to Seville and stay in the Casa de Juderia section of Santa Cruz, which was quaint and charming with many courtyards and balconies. We also loved the town of Marria, which still has the old charm. Then we were off to the Balearic Islands, where we had a great time bouncing along the 'coast of life'. Sometimes we felt like we were doing too much and moving too fast, but we had a date to meet friends in the South of France. Once we got there, we started to slow down. We met our friends, and while it was great to be back in France, our first stop in Marseilles was marred by very hot weather and a garbage strike. But it's great to be here and get a chance to see through the eyes of people besides we Americans. And there is soooo much natural beauty. Just the water is breathtaking, bright blue and turquoise, and so clear you can sometimes see down 100 feet. Wow, I hope we never get jaded to such splendor. We're now heading northeast along the Cote d' Azur - meaning the coast of Provence, St. Tropez, Cannes, Nice, and Monte Carlo. Next stop, Corsica."

If you're going cruising - it doesn't matter where - and are going to have friends come and visit, take to heart the experience of the Burnaps - and just about all other cruisers. Specifically, it's so much easier for your visitors to get to your boat than for you to get your boat to your visitors. For example, if you're running behind schedule because of bad weather or engine problems, you can drive yourself nuts trying to get to Marseilles to meet them. On the other hand, once the friends get to Marseilles, it's extremely easy for them to come to your boat, no matter if you're still in Palma, Menorca, Barcelona, or wherever. So, repeat - out loud - after us three times: It's 20 times easier for our friends to take a train or plane 200 miles to meet us rather than us having to fight a gale or an engine problem to move our boat 200 miles to meet them. Post this prominently at your nav station and reread it every time you talk to friends about visiting you.

"We want to thank everyone who showed up at the Marin Headlands or our berth in Richmond for the end of our circumnavigaton," writes Tony Johnson of the Richmond-based Ericson 39 Maverick on behalf of himself and his crew Terry Shrode. "The first thing I did when I got home was get sick. I hadn't had any but minor health problems in places such as Tonga, Eritrea, and Morocco, but when I hit the home waters I got a vicious and lingering cold. Could it have been that I was unconsciously resisting a return to normal life? I don't think so. I seem to be bathed in luxury in my old house, which Theresa had stocked with all my favorite stuff. To have a refrigerator, hot and cold running water, a TV, and all my records and books close at hand seemed like heaven - even if my leg still involuntarily gets ready to work the foot pump every time I go to the sink. Old friends have stopped by and taken me out to lunch, sometimes generously promising - as Bob Spinner did - to be happy to pick up the tab "every time you finish a circumnavigation". My cat seemed to recognize me, but with cats it's hard to tell. The best thing of all - not counting Theresa - is that I've got the ability to just pick up the phone and instantly annoy and berate any number of friends and relatives. I've really missed that."

We'll have a lot more from Johnson next month on his circumnavigation, but before then thought we'd share two of his Most Unexpected Observations:

"First, even though every corner of the world is more raggedy and inefficient than what we're used to in the United States - some of it considerably so - most of what we saw was quite a bit more civilized than I had expected. You have to go to places even more remote than we did to find people who aren't familiar with cell phones and the internet. Most people seem to be gravitating - both in expectation and actual fact - toward a type of lifestyle that includes a car or motorbike, a TV, a stereo, and a phone. I haven't the faintest idea whether or not this is ultimately good or bad, but count me among those who also likes to have a car, a TV, a stereo, and a phone.

Second - and here I'll go out on a political limb and risk alienating whomever I haven't managed to do so already - Andy Rooney once said, "Let me get this straight. In capitalism, the greatest good is served when every individual acts in as selfish and greedy a manner as possible. That can't be right, can it?" I'm no expert in political science or sociology, but despite the multinational corporations, the lack of campaign finance reform and the power of money, every sleazy thing you think is true about America - and is true about America, it appears that every place else just operates on a lower level. (Arguably, being able to kill people more efficiently than anyone else in history may not be such a good thing, but we'll table that discussion for now.) I've tried to figure out the reason for this, and actually wrote a piece quoting Pearce, Dewey, and Weber, and so forth, but there's a good chance it's all wrong. To make it brief, it just seems to me that the average Americans are the busy beavers of the world. It was quite an unsettling surprise when I found myself actually waxing nostalgic for their energetic, inventive, and enterprising style. I'm not unaware that by tradition I'm supposed to come back to the States with a backward, romantic glance towards simpler, less stressful, happier cultures, and a rueful grimace at our own. But I just wasn't able to persuade myself that the attraction of such places was not the wistful mythical projection of the ancient human desire for Eden, which, for those of you who are not Biblical scholars, is a place us humans got kicked out of, and to which we are not allowed to return."

"After a very nice sail from San Diego to Mexico's Coronado Islands on May 24, we anchored in the lee of South Coronado with about a dozen other boats," report Dwain and Nancy Lentz of the Tempe-based Hunter 340 Dancy. "After we grilled some steaks and baked some potatoes, we sat down with glasses of wine in the salon. But about halfway through dinner we heard a commotion on the cabintop. Someone or something had boarded our boat! Seeing a shadow cross the overhead hatch, we rushed to the companionway to find the intruder right in our faces. This guy had no fear. After many attempts to scare him away, we got a piece of steak from below, showed it to the intruder, and tossed it overboard hoping he would jump in after it. He did. After finding the meat and bringing it to the surface for examination, he ate it. He then swam to the transom of our boat and tried to climb up our swim platform! By this time all four of us and the dog were in the cockpit trying to stop the intruder from boarding again. We put our feet in front of him to keep him from coming back on the boat. Obviously, we shouldn't have fed him, but at the time it was the only way we could get him to leave. Thank God he was only a juvenile! The Los Coronado Islands are just a few miles past the starting line for the Baja Ha-Ha. Did we mention we're looking for berths on this year's event?"

Finally! Jonathan 'Dirty Bird' Livingston of Richmond and his bride Susie Grubler of Lahaina have finally taken off on their cruise to the South Pacific aboard their Wylie 39 Punk Dolphin. "It took a while, but we're finally at sea," they email. "We are at 152° W and about 10° N after getting the shit beat out of us getting here. We found the doldrums, and know for sure that this is where the Squall Lord lives. The doldrums appear to be quite large this year - 700 miles long according to our weather service friends. We think they are the 'mother of all doldrums'. We hope our engine keeps on chugging, because we would need numerous shock therapy sessions to break us all out of doldrum depression if we got stuck here long. Here's what it takes to sail in the doldrums: 1) A diesel; 2) A very low I.Q.; 3) A sailboat; 4) A radar - so you can sit on your lazy ass and pretend you are on watch in the rain; and 5) At least 10 books."

Many of you will remember Carla Hildebrant of Namibia, who was featured in Changes last month as the photogenic crew for Mike Harker of the Manhattan-based Hunter 466 Wanderlust. When they got to Panama, Carla - as planned - took off to travel on land in Ecuador. Based on this report she sent from there, prices are low in that South American country: "Alex, Richard and I settled into our $3/night room at Res Rosita with hunger cramps, so we went looking for some equally low budget food. For $1.50 we got a huge bowl of soup, rice topped with roast chicken, vegetables, salad, and a cool drink. The soup was delicious, and I hungrily began to drink it down. But as the level of soup began to drop, the solid components of the soup began to take a visible shape. To my horror I discovered a chicken claw at the bottom of my bowl! The blood drained from my face as I rushed to the bathroom. My appetite having been spoiled, needless to say I left all the rest of my food untouched on the table."

As for Harker, from reading this month's Changes you know that he transited the Canal with Wanderlust, then somehow came into possession of an "all access" press pass for backstage at the Miss Universe Contest being held in Panama City. "I got to go backstage and talk to the girls, but wasn't allowed to photograph them. I tried to get three or four of them to come for a 20-minute sail on Wanderlust with the Panama City skyline in the background, but security was just too tight." By the time you read this, Harker will be on the long passage from Panama to Hawaii.

"As perhaps the sailing magazine with the best cruising information, I wonder if you have any information about the possibility of filling the new American propane tanks in Mexico?" So asks Bob Harris of Priority Won, who will be leaving for Mexico for the third time this fall. Last year there were problems with the new American tanks, which have external threads to prevent overfilling and spills. In some places - such as Puerto Vallarta - propane retailers have obtained adaptors that permit them to fill the new tanks. However, we're not sure if this is true everywhere. Can anybody in Mexico help with more information on who has the adaptors and who doesn't?

"We're back cruising after our 18-month hiatus in New Zealand," report Ken Machtley and Cathy Siegismund of the Seattle-based Tashiba 31 Felicity. "We left the comfort of our marina berth on May 23, and worked our way up the New Zealand coast to Opua, our original port of entry. Leaving behind shore-based luxuries such as a phone/DSL line, our car, and Starbucks, of course, put us back into the cruising frame of mind quickly. It was all a bit hectic, similar to leaving Seattle, but at least this time the adjustment wasn't such a big surprise. Sailing out of Opua on May 27, we enjoyed a week of great sailing on our way to Fiji. The latter part of our trip was a little boisterous, but certainly nothing to complain about. Our crossing to Suva took about 9.5 days and, we're now readjusting to the heat and humidity of the tropics. Our plans are to work our way to Kadavu to the south and then up to Musket Cove over the next few weeks. We'll leave the boat for a week of diving on the Fiji Aggressor liveaboard dive boat - Cath's 40th birthday present - and then figure out what our plans are after that. This will likely include a mixture of hanging at the resort and sailing through the Yasawa group. Sometime in August, we'll depart for Vanuatu. For those interested, we've posted a lot of new material at www.svfelicity.com."

As for the answer to the Cruising Location Quiz from the photo on page 195, it's Lake Apache in Arizona. "It's 17 miles along, and although fairly narrow, the wind usually comes up the valley in the a.m. and down the valley in the p.m. - allowing for some great sailing days," reports Jared DeWitt. The featured Freedom 25 belongs to Doug and Karyn Christie. By the way, when you wrote about flying dinghies in 'Lectronic a few weeks ago, I wrote back to say I thought they would be better than the motorized parasails, which you had also mentioned. I have just returned to my home of Sarasota, Florida, in time to read about the flying dinghy accident you later mentioned that killed two people. I knew that flying dinghy because I'd flown in it before. The pilot seemed very conscientious. How terribly sad."

The hoped for changes in clearing procedures in Mexico? It's extremely hard to get factual information, but apparently the legislation to change or eliminate them was defeated. What we know for sure is that the irritating time and money-wasting procedures remain in effect. It's such a terrible system, however, that we're confident it will be changed before too long.

"My name is Linh Goben, and my husband Teal and I are planning an open-ended sailing trip that hopefully will start with the 2004 Ha-Ha and take us around the world," writes Linh Goben of the Stockton-based Williams-Piver 41 trimaran Savannah. "We have already sailed from Sausalito to Seattle and back, and are currently moored in Stockton for a complete refit. We've already completely done the interior and exterior. Between now and the time we leave next year, we'd like to attend cruising seminars and other similar activities in the area. What's the best way to learn about such events?"

Based on what we can see of the interior of Savannah, you two look as though you're doing a fine job on your boat. As for learning about cruising seminars and other cruising oriented activities, we recommend you keep your eye on the ads and Calendar in Latitude. As the winter season approaches, there will be a number of free and for profit cruising seminars held. In addition, make sure you attend the Mexico Crew List and Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party at the Encinal YC in October - even if you won't be taking off until next year. And if you're looking for a winter vacation, we suggest you show up in Cabo on November 6 to 9 for firsthand debriefings of what it was like.

"Sorry to take so long to get this report on May's Loreto Fest to you," writes Emily Hansen of the Sausalito-based Roberts 44 Mystery Tramp, and I'm sorry the internet service here is too slow to send many photos of that event. But I want to report there were 160 boats for this year's event, which is actually held at Puerto Escondidio in Baja. The event kicked off with the traditional ham tests followed by a Happy Hour with live music on Thursday night. The Friday activities included a writing workshop put on by Jinx of Hi Jinx, a cooking class by Kay Pastorious of Joyful, and a watermaker workshop. The theme for the potluck dinner on Friday night was 'Cruise to Live, Live to Cruise', so everyone dressed island style. Later there was live entertainment and late night dancing. In recent years the Loreto Fest has been evolving into a cruiser music festival. On Saturday the first-ever Candeleros Classic Regatta was held, with 10 boats participating. Saturday night's theme was 'Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves' - with everyone dressed up for a parade. Later there was a big spaghetti dinner and more live music. Loreto Fest kept right on going on Sunday morning, with a pancake breakfast, Spam contest, dinghy parade, and dinghy races. Other events during the course of the Fest included an Over-The-Line baseball tournament, horseshoes, beading workshops, and a sexiest hula hooping contest. In addition, about a dozen kids performed Old McDonald by blowing through snorkels, hula hooped to Rubber Band Man, and joined Travis of Mystery Tramp in singing The Naked Canadian. You really had to be there to understand, and hopefully many of you can be at next year's Loreto Fest. During the 4.5 days of this year's event, the crews of the 160 boats drank almost 4,000 cervezas - but it was for a good cause. The sponsoring Hidden Port YC announced that $13,000 had been raised for various local charities, including the new high school."

It sounds like it was great fun, but you Baja cruisers better not get into any drinking contests with the Carribean crowd. In the same time the 160-boat Loreto fleet consumed 4,000 beers, the 205-boat Heineken Regatta crews and camp followers in St. Martin knocked off 360,000 - that's not a typo - Heinies. And they have the empties to prove it.

"There is good news out of Turtle Bay for those of us who are tired of the frustrations often associated with having to deal with the erratic Ernesto," reports Ernie Copp of the Long Beach-based Cheoy Lee 50 Orient Star. "When we were there a short time ago, a fellow named Jorge was trying to establish some competition in the fuel and water taxi business. Jorge's brochure says he has been doing this for several years, although I only recall seeing him once before. In any event, unlike Ernesto, he's very businesslike, and gave us excellent service and fair measure with the fuel. In addition, he was prompt with the water taxi, and located a fisherman for us who had some nice white sea bass for sale. I overtipped Jorge to try and help him get established, and hope that other mariners will do the same. By the way, until I hear otherwise, I am claiming the 'apple pie record' for the trip up the coast. One of my crew, Don Johnson of the Chula Vista-based Sohle, baked three apple pies and two lime pies during our Baja Bash. And this was from scratch, including peeling the apples, grating the limes, and starting the crust from plain flour!"

We regret to report that the Brits are getting fed up - and rightly so, it would seem - with Ivan 'the Terrible' Rusch of Moss Landing, who in his mid-70s bought the Rassy 31 Örnaerie and took up ocean sailing. With a 22-year-old crew, he had no trouble sailing to Denmark. But now that he's been singlehanding, it looks as though he's mentally and physically in over his head. On April 17 he called harbor authorities at Eastbourne to say he could use a little help - although he was off Hastings at the time. On April 19 he was seen sailing erratically off Portsmouth and found to be disoriented. On May 13 he ran aground off of Poole. On May 15 he was escorted into Brixham after reporting he was lost. On May 22 he was rescued off Start Point when he became disoriented and was too tired to raise his mainsail. The Brits say the cost of having come to rescue Ivan has been about $45,000 U.S., and he's been getting lots of bad press in the newspapers. We love you Ivan, and we admire your spirit, but unless you can find a competent partner, it's time - for your own good and that of others - to swallow the anchor.

"We rounded Point Conception at noon on May 28 in a near calm on our way back from last year's Ha-Ha and a season in Mexico," report Doug and Tamara Thorne of the San Francisco-based Celestial 48 Tamara Lee Ann. "The forecast had been for 20-25 knots and six to nine foot seas, but we didn't see any of that until much later the next day. After struggling on the Baja Bash - particularly on the leg between Bahia Santa Maria and Turtle Bay - it was such a relief to be back in the United States, where harbors are plentiful and credit cards are accepted."

Got any warm weather cruising plans for this winter? If so, we'd sure like to hear about them. Latitude's Profligate will have a new itinerary that will see her - knock on composite - travel to the Caribbean. Following the end of the Ha-Ha in early November, she'll be on a 'pedal to the metal' delivery to the Panama Canal, and hopefully be through the Canal and out at the San Blas Islands by December 1. As soon as there's a weather window, Profligate will be off on the upwind, upcurrent, potentially very nasty passage to St. Barth in the Eastern Caribbean. Although it's only 1,200 miles from Panama to St. Barth as the seabird flies, if the reinforced Christmas Trades have kicked in, it's possible she'll have to take one of two indirect routes to St. Barth. One is by working the north shore of South America via Cartagena and Aruba, then up the Eastern Caribbean; the second is by sailing to Jamaica, then working the south coasts of Hispanola, Puerto Rico, through the Virgins, and across the Anegada Passage to St. Barth. In either case, it could turn out to be an 1,800-mile leg, and still rough most of the way.

Hopefully, Profligate will arrive in St. Barth before December 31 in order to participate in the Around The Island Parade/Race. Open to everyone, this casual event often features great yachts of the world. What we're really looking forward to, however, is rekindling our Banderas Bay rivalry with John Haste and his San Diego-based Perry 52 cat Little Wing. In Mexico, you race for cases of beer. In the Caribbean, it's for the gallon size jug of Mt. Gay rum. We expect three or four other Northern California cruising boats to join us in St. Barth for the New Year's celebration. There aren't many things we know for sure, but we do know that there's no better place in the world for a sailor to be on New Year's Eve than St. Barth. The stereotypical reputation of the three-by-seven mile island is that it's tres chic and tres expensive. There's some truth to that, but the Wanderer is rough around the edges and certainly isn't rich, and it's never stopped him from having the time of his life. We enjoy the great sailing conditions, the excellent beaches, the terrific swimming and body surfing, all our great friends - and the occasional wild night out. Although Profligate will base out of St. Barth, she'll be visiting many other islands and will attend or be at the following events: Heineken Regatta in St. Martin on March 6,7 & 8; the BVI Regatta in the British Virgins in late March; the Antigua Classic Regatta in mid-April; and Antigua Sailing Week starting the last Saturday in April. As much as we love summer sailing in California, there's a part of us that just can't wait for winter. We expect there will be a number of 'shared expenses' adventure opportunities both on the way to and in the Caribbean. We'll keep you posted.

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