July, 2004

With reports this month from Witch of Endor in Ecuador; Boat Name Withheld in Cuba; Beach House trying to get from the Med to Marina del Rey; Amazing Grace on a cruise to Hawaii and back last summer; Whisper on reviving their diesel in the middle of the Pacific; Adagio on cruising around Sydney; Mischief on a cruise last summer to Hawaii; Moonshadow on finally leaving New Zealand; and Cruise Notes.

Witch of Endor - CT-41 Ketch
Steve Cherry
Harbor Tour With Miss Jamaica
(San Diego)

Greetings from Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador - which has been discovered and is being much enjoyed by a group of us West Coast cruisers. 'Laid back and friendly beach town' pretty much describes this place, although occasionally an event occurs that is outside of the daily norm. Just such an event took place in conjunction with the Miss Universe Pageant that was based out of Quito, Ecuador, this year. The contestants toured various locations in the country, doing the usual public relations thing, with photo opportunities and such. As a result, I had the pleasure of entertaining two of the contestants, Miss Jamaica and Miss Ethiopia, on my ketch in Bahia.

It all came about as a result of a function in the local museum, in which a discussion took place regarding taking some of the contestants for a tour of the harbor. As a result, my Witch of Endor, Dave's Mustang from Seattle, and Linda and Ken's Linda Lea from Southern California took dignitaries and other guests for a round-the-estuary tour on June 5. Frank (Francisco) Martin, a driving force behind the upgrades to Puerto Amistad, and Maye Baldavino, his significant other who is known to us cruisers as 'Our Miss Colombia', embarked on the Witch with Christine Straw, who is Miss Jamaica, the Port Captain, and a dozen others. Maye went to work in the galley, whipping up all sorts of goodies - and cleaning, too. (What was up with that, as my galley was perfectly satisfactory by singlehander standards?) A good time was had by all, Miss Jamaica got to take the helm of a bluewater boat, and closer relationships were forged between cruisers and local officials, as well as the Armada del Ecuador.

Speaking of port captains, most of them get bad press, particularly in Mexico. In other ports up and down the coasts, they generally don't even see cruisers - unless there is some kind of problem. But we cruisers here in Bahia would like everyone to know that 'our' port captain, Lieutenant Diego Criollo Chamba, is different. He's very interested in the goings-on in the city and the port, and understands that the cruisers are an integral part of the local community. It's too bad that other port captains don't always feel the same way.

I'll have much more on Bahia in a Changes next month. But rest assured that it's an up and coming place for cruisers who want to enjoy a very relaxed and very inexpensive place - especially during the northern hemisphere summer, when there is so much rain and lightning in places such as Costa Rica and Panama.

- steve 6/7/04

Boat Name Withheld - 60-ft Cat
Name Withheld By Request
Varadero, Cuba
(Florida / Canada)

I spent four weeks in January and February aboard a large Canadian catamaran in the marinas and anchorages at or near Varadero, Cuba. For the good of everyone involved, I'm withholding the name of the vessel and all those who were aboard her. It was the first visit for all of us to Cuba and Varadero. The latter had been highly recommended to us, and is also heavily-promoted as a tourist destination for Canadians and Latin Americans. The main reason our skipper went was to try to take advantage of rock-bottom labor rates for a bottom job - as well as have a low-budget vacation. I came for the adventure.

To my way of thinking, Cuba is the largest and most beautiful tropical cruising destination close to the United States. While the general populations of both the U.S. and Cuba appear to be ready to embrace and make up after that revolution 40 years ago, Havana and Washington, D.C. seem like two quarreling schoolyard bullies unable to let bygones be bygones. Furthermore, the current U.S. administration has made it more difficult than ever for U.S. mariners to visit Cuba.

Varadero is the closest point of entry in Cuba for boats coming from the U.S., as it's only 88 miles due south of Marathon, Florida. About halfway to Varadero, we were buzzed by a Coast Guard helicopter. Even though we were in international waters, the Florida Straits have unilaterially been declared a 'security zone' by the U.S., and all boats leaving from Florida are supposed to get a permit to cross the zone. Many boats don't get a permit and don't have any trouble, but some boats have been turned back.

The entry to Varadero Marina is a cut across the Hicacos Peninsula - which technically makes Varadero an island. This was not marked on the charts - paper or CD - available to us in the U.S. The entrance at the other end of Varadero is not viable for sailboats, as the Soviet-built drawbridge hasn't worked in 10 years. (We found that the cruising guides for Cuba - such as the one by Simon Charles - were outdated. Much has changed - politically, culturally, economically, and even topographically - since the guides were published. Channels, for instance, have silted in, and coral heads have grown in some places and disappeared in others.)

We announced our arrival at Varadero on 16 - which was a good thing, as that's the only channel that the marina's radio worked on. As we pulled up to the reception dock, about 10 neatly uniformed officials, male and female, were there to greet us. There was also a drug-sniffing dog. We didn't care for the boots and high heels the officials wore, but we didn't mind the mini-skirts the female officials had on. It was odd, because the officials looked as though they were ready to perform the Springtime For Hitler number from Mel Brooks' The Producers. They were both cute and fierce at the same time.

First aboard was the local doctor, an elegant young lady who gave us the once-over - presumably looking for symptoms of SARs and/or AIDS. The official from the Agricultural Ministry looked at our food supply and instructed us to boil all 30 of our eggs or have them confiscated. Start up the pressure cooker! A potted plant, fresh onions, and potatoes were carefully scrutinized, then passed.

The skipper was most nervous about the drug-sniffing dog. He'd only owned the boat for 18 months, and with hundreds of people having been on her before, who could tell how many roaches might have been left behind? But the dog found nothing. Next came three armed men led by a major from the Guarda Frontera. They looked into every cubbyhole and drawer. The fishing and diving gear were fine, but guns and other weapons would have been impounded.

With this having been done, the paperwork began. The entire process took about two hours. Our passports were not stamped in order to prevent us from getting in trouble with the U.S. authorities, but we were issued visa cards. It cost $45 for the boat to enter Cuba and get a cruising permit, plus $15 more per passenger. Compare this with $300 for the Bahamas, and it's a relative bargain. When the boarding party left, the drug-sniffing dog trailed behind - and left a big poop on the dock.

Marina officials advised us that we could take any open slip that we found, but that we would not be allowed to anchor anywhere in the spacious open basin. Only about 25% of the 70-some rigid cement slips were occupied, mostly by local charter boats. There were about three U.S.-flagged vessels in the harbor, but several other countries were represented - including Canada, Japan, and Russia by a megayacht. There was also a large Panamanian-flagged sailboat that had changed ownership from Bulgarian to Italian on the way over from Key West.

The acting marina manager was a sexy, buxom mulatta with a business-only demeanor. She quoted us .45/foot for the dockage, plus about .50/day for water and electricity. We were promised a discount if we stayed for a month. There were four different types of electrical hookups on the dock, and two types for water hoses. None of them were compatible with what we had. But before we had a chance to complain, the marina engineer hot-wired an electrical connection and fitted an adaptor for the hose. Perhaps the one dollar tip we gave him had something to do with his quick service. He later told us he gets paid $30/month by the government - which is much less than he makes in tips from foreigners. To be fair, the fellow pays just $10/month for his waterfront apartment, eats for free from white tableclothes at the marina restaurant, gets a free education for his kids up through the university level, and gets free healthcare for his entire family. By the way, healthcare is even free to visitors.

The marina grounds were nicely landscaped and large enough for several soccer fields. The main building looked like most of the '60s-'80s era public service projects from socialist countries the world over - plain but well-built and spacious. The marina offices could have used paint, however, and the large bathrooms were missing faucets and lightbulbs, and the showers didn't have warm water. But the well-stocked restaurant and marine store were spotless and bright. The upstairs disco and pool room were closed, and it was hinted that this was done to reduce the fraternization of yachties and locals. We believe it.

Security was not a problem at the marina, as there were more police - uniformed and undercover - than marina staff or clients. We were always watched, and our bags were even spot-checked each time we came in or left through the gate to the dock. We got the feeling that one of the slip-holders - a tall hunk with a military haircut - might be from the CIA or some other U.S. spook agency.

The main highway from Varadero to Havana runs past the marina building. Nearby there's a gas station with a small convenience store - and a good-sized Mercedes dealership! Everything else is a long walk or bike ride away. Taxis cruise by frequently, but they are expensive. We once paid $12 for a 1.3 mile round-trip! There's a double-decker tourist shuttle that operates on a 65-minute schedule, but it doesn't stop at the marina, and it's $5 for a day pass. Public transport drivers will not let foreigners ride on their vehicles because they are reserved for 'workers'.

There aren't many Detroit-built cars left in Cuba, and the few there are aren't even suitable for a museum. Car and motorscooter rental agencies are everywhere, but expect to be ripped off. The same holds true for internet access, which is also very expensive.

All the tourist hotels are lined up along a 10-mile strip running the length of the narrow barrier reef that is Varadero. It seems as though there are hundreds of them, and they are of all types, from converted homes previously owned by the likes of Al Capone and the DuPont Family, to huge all-inclusive resorts run by international tour companies in conjunction with the Cuban government. Although these accomodations are hardly filled to capacity, more are being built at the far end of the peninsula. The beach is stunning, with ink-blue water lapping against an eggshell-white beach of coral sand.

On the other side of the peninsula, among the mangroves, are Chapelin Marina and Gaviota Marinas, home to the local sailing, diving, and sportfishing fleets. Visiting yachts may also berth there, but only after checking in at Varadero or Hemingway Marina in Havana. The two marinas can be reached from Marina Darsena by dinghy, so we headed off in that direction on an excursion. But when we returned, the Guarda Frontera major chastised us severely: "No dinghies in the water!" With more than a little justification, the Cubans are afraid that some of their citizens, eager to gain freedom, might steal a dinghy and attempt a getaway. Nonetheless, the dinghy prohibition put a damper on things, as we had counted on the dinghy to be our main means of transportation to various beach, shopping, and entertainment venues just 1/4-mile across the channel from our slip. Without the dinghy, it meant a two-kilotmeter walk or bike trip.

[To be continued next month - in an installment in which the four crew receive rather unconvential stress-reduction therapy from a Cuban government doctor.]

- anonymous 6/5/04

Beach House - Switch 51 Cat
Scott & Cindy Stolnitz
France To California
(Marina del Rey)

Cindy and I really love our boat, which we picked up from Sete on the coast of France. Visiting the Spanish island of Mallorca was an education because being smack in the middle of the Med, it's been a crossroads for modern history. It was also an education in how incredibly crowded and expensive it can be to cruise the Med. Having our bottom cleaned in California would have cost less than $80, but in Mallorca the diver charged us $235! Furthermore, he told us we should be honored because two years before he'd cleaned the bottom of Queen Victoria's yacht. He even showed me his 'log' to prove it.

Mooring wasn't inexpensive, either. It cost more to Med-moor in Mallorca for a week than it would at the California YC in Marina del Rey for a month. We used to think that a 51-ft cat is a fairly good-sized boat, but not after being in the Med. We were assigned to moor on 'hotel row', where the next smallest yacht was 90 feet. Others were as big as 140 feet. And compared to Monaco, even these big boats are toys.

Our plan had been to sail across the Atlantic, and then have Beach House shipped by Dockwise Transport from Lauderdale to Ensenada. Well, everyone said it was the worst April/May weather in the Med in 30 years, so by the time the boat got to Gibraltar, we weren't going to be able to get across the Atlantic in time to catch the Dockwise ship in Lauderdale. So we had to backtrack to Mallorca in order to catch a Dockwise ship across the Atlantic as well as to Ensenada. If we hadn't, we wouldn't have been able to get our boat to the West Coast before 2005. Yes, we could have sailed the boat across the Atlantic and left her in Florida, but we didn't have a berth, didn't want to leave her through hurricane season, and didn't want to battle Florida over sales tax.

Cindy and I few home while our cat was in Gib. Unfortunately, she broke loose from her mooring when the wind blew up to 60 knots. There was some damage to the transom, but we got off easy. Anyway, it was a lot of fun sailing along the coast of Spain back to Mallorca, during which time we once hit 20.6 knots under reefed main and genoa. That's moving right along.

When we got to Mallorca, we watched 20 boats that had come across the Atlantic on Super Servant 3 motor off. Six of them were in the 135-ft range. Ours will be only one of six boats loading tomorrow for the trip across the Atlantic. If all goes well, we should be living aboard and sailing Beach House in Southern California by early September.

By the way, we're in touch with the Molitor family of the Pacific Northwest who own Willyflippit, a sistership to our Switch 51. Latitude did a Changes on them a little more than a year ago in Guadeloupe. We stay in touch, and Scott and Stacy report that they are now in the Tuamotus and making the 'Coconut Run' to New Zealand, where they are planning to sell their boat and emigrate so the kids can finish school. The kids, Lauren and Clay, are about 11 and 9. Scott told me that while in the Med in 2002, some marinas wanted 265 euros a night for berthing!

- scott 6/7/04

Scott - When we had Big O in the Med in '94, the European currencies were much weaker against the dollar than the euro is now. Nonetheless, both the private and public marinas at Puerto Ercole, Italy, tried to charge us $360/night for a stern tie. Ridiculous! So we anchored right off the end of the breakwater - for free. It was our experience that just about everywhere in the Med - Mallorca and Ibiza in Spain, the French Riviera, Elba and Italy, Greece and Turkey - there were places to anchor at no charge. If we're not mistaken, it's still that way. The one oddity we'll never forget - paying less than $1/ft for a front row Med-tie at Monte Carlo.

Amazing Grace - Valiant 32
Chris Martin
Hawaii & Back
(San Francisco)

Last summer I took three months off work to sail my Valiant 32 from San Francisco to Hawaii and back. Although at age 35 I'm still pretty young, it's always been my dream to sail around the world. So I figured that a circumnavigation of the Eastern Pacific would be a good test to see if I would really like it. I've owned my boat for three years, and spent most of that time refurbishing her for the open ocean and honing my sailing skills in and around San Francisco Bay.

Accompanied by a crew of two, and with a Ranger 33 buddyboat with three men as crew, we all left San Francisco on June 7. There was little fanfare and even less wind. After some deliberation, we decided to put in at Monterey and wait for the Pacific High to re-form. We finally left again on June 11, as it appeared that the trades were forming once again.

We didn't see much shipping traffic the first few days. We spotted a ship two days out, and when I looked through the binoculars, I thought it was a white-hulled 50-ft research vessel about four miles astern. Then the rest of the hull came up from behind a wave, and I could see that it was a supertanker! It ended up passing two miles astern of us, but it sure scared me.

For the first five days of the trip I got very little sleep, as I thought that every strange noise in the rig or hull was the beginning of a problem that would sink us, or that at any moment we'd be holed as the result of hitting a shipping container. But after five days I began to relax, and slept like a baby in the gentle rocking.

We came across several pods of whales, but since no one in the crew was a marine biologist, we couldn't tell if they were feeding, breeding, playing or getting ready to attack us. We slid by silently and paid respects to whatever they were doing.

It took us nearly four days to get out of the coastal northwesterly winds and near enough to the 130°N-30°W at which we'd head for the islands. Impatient, we turned too soon, which got us too close to the Pacific High. We were becalmed and spent the better part of 24 hours drifting around waiting for wind. When the wind started filling in again there was no doubt of its direction and intent - it was out of the southwest and had us pointed right at the islands.

It was at about this point that we lost track of our buddyboat. I had no SSB so I couldn't call him. I did have an Iridium Satphone, however, so I called his land contact and told them to relay the message that we were fine and continuing to Hawaii. From then on we stopped trying to reach them via VHF.

We caught two tuna in the colder waters up north, and then 500 miles from the Big Island the mahi started appearing. We used the industry-standard 'handline' method, which worked like a charm. For less than $50 you can catch all the fresh fish you need with a heavy line, some swivels, and a big hook with a feather. So I see no need to spend money on an expensive rod and reel.

We learned a technique to handle the boat in the squalls that passed over us - do nothing. The boat would veer for 5-10 minutes, and then come back to course after the wet and wind passed. The wet was never too wet, and the wind was never too strong to cause any problems.

The downwind sail to Hawaii was a thrill. My boat only has a 26-ft waterline, so most of our days were only 110 to 120 miles. One day we managed to post 140 miles, but we wore ourselves out so much getting the few extra miles that we decided not to push that hard again.

Even though we were upwind of Hawaii, we could smell the land before we could see it. Once we could see the lights on the horizon, they drew us like flies to the flame. We pulled into Radio Bay, Hilo, Hawaii on June 30, 18 days after leaving Monterey.

We spent five days at Hilo - half of it getting used to walking on land again. Then we took off on an inter-island adventure. Sailing between the islands featured the most consistent winds of the entire three-month trip, and fortunately it was from aft. Going from Hawaii to Kauai, the wind was generally on our starboard quarter at 15-30 knots. The waves in the channels were consistent - big and choppy. The anchorages provided decent holding when I set my 35-lb CQR at the end of 75-feet of chain. Kaunakakai Harbor on Molokai was one of the best anchorages for both holding power and sunset brilliance.

After three weeks in Hawaii that included a crew switch, we left Hanalei Bay, Kauai on August 1 for the trip back to San Francisco. Our companion boat Pakele had to leave 10 days earlier due to time constraints back on the mainland. Although their company was sorely missed, it didn't matter too much from the buddyboat perspective, as we had lost them before. Besides, having done two months of constant ocean sailing, I was feeling as confident as possible.

We sailed off the hook at Hanalei, and sailed north for five days before starting our engine to charge our batteries. The weather was textbook perfect during this phase, making sailing a dream. The days, nights, and squalls were all warm, and the mahi was plentiful. The crew mentioned that there were more stars in the sky than junk emails in their Yahoo! inboxes.

We crossed the ship 'freeways' that go to Oakland and Long Beach, and were able to speak with about half of the ships on bridge-to-bridge VHF. Nonetheless, several passed within two miles of us, and we couldn't contact them. One night we felt obligated to illuminate our sails until the officer on duty spotted us and changed the course of his ship.

We sailed as far as 41°N before turning east toward home. We battled the calm in the center of the Pacific High, taking time to both climb the mast and swim in 5,000 feet of water. Once on the eastern side of the High, we encountered two gales. The second one blew for three days - fortunately from the NNW, sending us right to San Francisco. A triple-reefed main and storm sail kept us steady at 5+ knots over the eventual 18-foot swells on our port quarter. We were greeted at the Farallones with a magnificent display of humpback whales.

We slipped under the Golden Gate Bridge with as much fanfare as we had left with three months before. The crew celebrated with the opening of the last three keel-cooled beers at 11 p.m. on August 23. It was the best I ever had, and I haven't stopped smiling since. As for a circumnavigation of the world, it's still a dream, but it's closer than it was before I sailed to Hawaii and back. I'm saving up for a bigger boat, but enjoying sailing on the Bay for now.

- chris 05/15/04

Whisper - Hallberg-Rassy 42
Duncan & Robin Owen
The 12-Step Engine Restart
(San Francisco)

About three days into our recent 'Puddle Jump' crossing from Puerto Vallarta to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas, our Volvo engine filled with seawater. After discovering the problem, we jokingly said, "What would Lin and Larry Pardey do?" The couple, of course, are famous for sailing around the world on small boats without engines. So instead of turning back toward Mexico, we kept sailing toward French Polynesia. We still had 8-10 days before reaching the Intertropical Convergence Zone, where we would want a working engine.

Several consultations by SSB radio with cruisers back in Puerto Vallarta - primarily with Denis and Shari Dicks of the Seattle-based Liberty 458 Bobulona; and Don Wilson and Gwen Hamlin of the St. Thomas-based CSY 44 Tackless II - helped us figure out what was wrong with the engine and what we might do about it.

The problem was that the anti-siphon discharge from our genset was T'd into the anti-siphon discharge from our engine, and they both drained into a single small fitting spliced into the cockpit drain hose. This system worked great for two years of coastal cruising and for running our genset in calm anchorages. But when we took off for the Marquesas, we ran the genset with the main engine off. The sloppy sea state combined with the exhaust water sloshing in the main engine exhaust set up a reverse siphon in the engine raw water cooling system. As a result, the genset cooling water was sucked down the genset anti-siphon discharge hose, up through the 'T' fitting, and (in reverse) into the main engine anti-siphon discharge. It didn't help that there was only about a 4-inch gravity drop between each anti-siphon discharge and the 'T' fitting.

We also had a Vetus anti-siphon loop on the engine, which should have prevented the problem. But it either doesn't have a check-valve, or the valve didn't work because it was clogged. In any event, within hours the engine exhaust system filled up with seawater. Before long, the turbocharger, engine top-end, two of the four cylinders, and the crankcase also filled with seawater.

Via SailMail, friends Dick and Dotti Olsen of the Tucson-based Challenger 40 Dunamis put us in contact with their friends Fred and Deb Bates aboard Arcturus. Fred, now retired, had owned a diesel repair shop for 30 years. He and his wife Deb were enjoying the quiet Agua Verde anchorage on the inside of the Baja when Dunamis contacted them via email and explained our plight. For the next several days, Fred crafted clear instructional emails, then followed up each morning on the SSB to check our progress and the status of the engine. Here is the 12-step plan he came up with to get our engine running again.

1.) Change the oil and filter to remove the bulk of the saltwater and oil mixture from the crankcase.
2.) Eliminate the original cause of the problem by removing the discharge hose 'T'-fitting and plumbing a new discharge fitting directly into the cockpit drain. We did the latter using a drill, plastic hose-barb, and some epoxy. I used the new fitting for the engine anti-siphon discharge, and re-routed the genset anti-siphon discharge to the original cockpit drain fitting.
3.) Remove the turbo-charger, drain, clean, dry, and oil.
4.) Drain the 4+ gallons of seawater out of the exhaust system.
5.) Remove the fuel lines and injectors.
6.) Purge the water from all cylinders using the starter and clean engine oil.
7.) Replace the injectors and fuel lines, then bleed the fuel system.
8.) Start the engine. (It started!)
9.) Run for 10 minutes, then perform another oil and filter change.
10.) Run for 30 minutes, then perform another oil and filter change.
11.) Run for two hours, then do another oil and filter change.
12.) After 25 hours, do another oil and filter change. This would mean using our last oil filter.

It was a messy job and there were a few surprises along the way requiring improvisation, but as we noted, the engine started on the first turn of the key! And it's still running fine. Amazing.

Before leaving Puerto Vallarta on their own Puddle Jump, Don and Gwen Wilson on Tackless II not only helped us with our initial diagnosis, but also pulled in 'Teapot Tony' - the local diesel guru in P.V. - for a consultation. When they learned that we would be using our entire stash of spare oil to get our engine running properly again, they worked with Tony to pull together a bulk order of 10 gallons of fresh engine oil. Don and Gwen then schlepped the oil across the Pacific and delivered it to us in a beautiful turquoise-water anchorage off Tahuata in the Marquesas. We will replenish our oil filter spares when we get to Papeete.

We think this was another great example of cruisers helping cruisers. Please pass on our thanks to everyone who helped us get our engine running again!

- duncan & robin 6/7/04

Duncan & Robin - What a great story - from the 'what would Lin and Larry do' attitude, to the combined efforts of everyone in P.V. to help bring your engine back to life. A tip of the Latitude hat to the whole bunch of you.

Adagio - Morrelli & Melvin 55 Cat
Steve & Dorothy Darden
Our Third Year DownUnder

On December 28 of 2002, we were in the coastal town of Yamba, New South Wales, Australia, at the mouth of the mighty Clarence River, some 300 nautical miles north of Sydney. Steve opened the newspaper and saw an announcement for the New Year's Eve fireworks celebration to be held in Sydney Harbour. "We can make it there in time for the fireworks!" he exclaimed.

We departed the next day, and had a lovely downwind sail in light winds under a crescent moon. Dorothy's log entry in the morning was: "A beautiful sunny day. Seas are lower, at less than one meter, and have smoothed out on top. The coastline is beautiful, with long sand hills curving in bays between green tree-covered headlands. We sailed through a hundred black shearwaters soaring over the surface of the sea."

On the second day, winds increased to between 27 and 35 knots, giving Adagio the kind of wind she loves. We flew down the Australian coast, reporting in with each Volunteer Marine Radio (VMR) station as we zipped past. One woman volunteer called us on the radio to say that someone ashore had reported seeing flashes of light out to sea in our vicinity. I told her it was the sparks coming off our transoms. "You've made my day," she laughed. Three-and-a-half hours from Sydney, a red crescent moon rose out of the edge of the sea in the 'rain-catching' position, as we surfed a wave at 16 knots.

At midnight, one of the three-meter waves broke into the cockpit from the side, so we furled the reacher, and soon were sailing in 30 knots of wind with a falling barometer. The VMR in Newcastle invited us to take refuge in that harbor, but we declined. After all, our autopilot was handling the conditions with grace and good sense. We relayed a Pan Pan broadcast from a another boat whose entire steering pedestal had broken off and was requesting a tow from the Coast Guard in Sydney.

By 9 a.m. on New Year's Eve morning, we were anchored at Athol Bay across the harbor from the Sydney Opera House. We were anchored in such deep water - 15 meters - that we figured no other small boats would try to anchor there. Wrong! By dusk there were a thousand other boats anchored around us despite the gusty 25-knot winds. Anchors dragged and snagged other rodes, but the fireworks were even more spectacular than expected. Identically choreographed firework displays were launched from five different barges anchored around the harbor, and huge incandescent bouquets and firefalls were set off from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. For the grande finale, a Dove of Peace flapped its lighted wings.

So began our month of fun in Sydney, one of the great urban sailing areas of the world. We anchored our beautiful floating home in protected Rozelle Bay, a short dinghy ride from the docks at the Sydney Fish Market, and in the shadow of the modern Anzac Bridge, where we heard the morning chorus of birds in the trees of the shoreline park.

Our first day we lunched on sushi and sashimi at the Fish Market; rode the monorail around central Sydney; then walked the length of Hyde Park and the Botanical Gardens to Lady Macquarie's Chair, and along the shoreline of Farm Cove to the Sydney Opera House. We later attended the opening performance of the Sydney Summer Festival on the steps of the Opera House. To add to the fun, a European group called Sticky had created architectural sculptures from thousands of rolls of cello tape, used a crane to raise the magical structure and a flying fairy, and added pinwheels of fireworks and dramatic sound effects to create an unusual but spectacular performance.

We visited the Sydney Opera House by day, and by night went to performances in the Concert Hall. We were enthralled by the structure's beauty. The landmark shapes of the reinforced concrete shells are exposed on the inside, and covered on the outside with glazed tiles like those on the belly of the space shuttle. Within the shells, the concert hall and symphony hall are suspended as in mid-air. Months later in Hobart an architect friend described to us the controversy between the brilliant architect and the Sydney architects and politicians - which resulted in the architect leaving the project, unpaid, before completion.

We hit the Sydney streets every morning, visiting the Maritime Museum and Tumbalong Park, and spent several hours wandering around the intricate maze of landscaped pathways in the Chinese Friendship Garden. The Chinese see animal and human figures in rocks and trees the way we Westerners see figures in clouds. We watched children and adults parading around the garden in beautiful Chinese dress, some of it quite elaborate. There is a costume room where for $10 anyone can dress the part. Many events of the Sydney Summer Festival were free, and several were performed on the sides of the city's buildings.

We got a laugh out of a sign directing cars to a shopping mall that read, 'Supacenta'. We guess that ensured the correct Aussie pronunciation.

One day we cruised up the Lane Cover River just north of downtown Sydney for a view of Sydney's historical waterfront homes. These all have small boat docks and classic sailboats tied alongside under tall trees. The peace and quiet was welcome after dodging the high-speed commuter ferries that race around Sydney Harbour.

One hot summer day there was a forecast for what's known as a 'southerly change'. We were so uncomfortable in the heat that precedes such changes that we spent the afternoon in an air-conditioned movie theatre, and then attended the thrilling free Jazz in the Domain concert. When we got back to our boat at 11 p.m., she was in a different location, four boat-lengths from the Water Police wharfs! There was also a large steel sailboat between us and the docks. Members of the Water Police were aboard Adagio setting our second anchor. Fellow sailors told us that while we were cooling off at the movies, the winds had blown up to 45 knots, and our anchor had dragged in the slimy, garbage-coated bottom of the shallow bay.

Neither we nor the owners of the steel boat were able to raise anchor to move our boats out of the channel, so we both had to stand anchor watch - in mild conditions - for the remainder of the night. The next morning - after several unsuccessful attempts to raise the anchor - we discovered that our anchor had hooked under the huge chain that had been laid for mooring the megayachts that had come for the Sydney Olympics. We paid $440 to have a diver free our anchor - and counted our lucky stars that we hadn't found Adagio banging into the dock. Following that experience, we never left Adagio unattended when the forecast called for a 'southerly change'.

A week of cruising the beautiful Pittwater, Hawksbury River, and Cowen Creek areas north of Sydney eased us back into cruising mode. We departed for Eden and Twofold Bay on February 6 on our way back to Tasmania. We were looking forward to milder weather there for the remainder of the Aussie summer, and to seeing our friends in Hobart again. We were fully prepared with tickets for a dozen of the upcoming events of the "Ten Days on the Island" festival, so we had a bit of a deadline to make landfall back in Tassie.

[Editor's note: More on that passage and another summer in Tazmania in the next issue. As of early June, the Dardens had departed New Zealand for Alaska.]

- steve & dorothy

Mischief - Union 36
Greg White
Hawaii Bound
(Ballena Bay, Alameda)

When the Coast Guard informed Greg White that his next posting would be in Hawaii, the plans to prepare his Union 36 for a trip to the Islands were accelerated. The scope of the preparations seemed daunting, but Greg's 27 years in the Coast Guard gave him some experience. One of the things he did was take as much weight off the boat as possible, shipping lots of gear to Hawaii. As a result, Mischief was floating above her lines at the start of the passage.

Although Greg feels comfortable singlehanding Mischief, extra crew would be nice. So he signed on Monty Chin, who has been sailing and racing for 40 years, as well his brother Marty Chin. That left me, Judie, being the only crewmember who didn't live on a boat. But I'd been sailing on Mischief for a year and spent a lot of time with Greg, who was also the Commodore of the Ballena Bay YC.

At 11 p.m. on June 15 of last year, we slipped Mischief's docklines for the last time at Ballena Bay Marina in Alameda, and headed for the Gate and Hawaii. The moon was nearly full and the night was clear. As we passed under the Golden Gate just after 1 a.m. and started to hit the growing swells, we realized that we'd made a grave error - we hadn't checked the coastal weather before taking off. By the next morning, we found ourselves in gale force winds and large and confused seas. Three of our crew went down with mal de mer for the first time in their lives. Fortunately, Mischief was designed for such conditions and took the pounding in stride. It didn't hurt that we sailed the first three days under a triple-reefed main and staysail. The only thing that bothered me was that each time she heeled over enough to put her rail under, it would cause a brass bell to ring in the salon.

After two days of gale conditions, the winds eased off and the sun temporarily made an appearance. We hooked up the Monitor windvane, turned on the radar with the perimeter alarm, and were therefore able to stand watch from below - where it was much warmer. Given the calmer conditions, we were also able to check for storm damage. We found that the top had been ripped off one of the on-deck coolers and that, tragically, a half a case of beer and five day's worth of ice had been lost.

There are always some repairs required on such a long passage, but ours were minor. The bilges filled because of a lack of packing in the rudder shaft and because the switch on the electric bilge pump didn't work. But after some hand-pumping and replacement of the packing, it was no longer a problem. We also fried a plug on a solar panel. Later in the trip, the head clogged. It's a dirty job to fix the head, so I'm not speaking literally when I report that Marty and Monty dove right into it. The problem turned out to be some calcium in the flapper valve, which was removed with a little vinegar and a brush.

Strong winds at night weren't uncommon on our passage. One night we had winds over 30 knots, which propelled Mischief along at as much as 11 knots, well in excess of her 7.5-knot hull speed. With the boat shaking, Greg and Monty furled the headsail and set the staysail to go along with the triple-reefed main. But the boom was still dragging in the water, so they dropped the main and ran under staysail alone. It was a rough night, but shortening sail made it much safer and more comfortable.

June 20 was our first night without some gale force winds, and it was nice. We later lounged on deck and talked about the yacht club and our friends back in California. Greg turned philosophical and stated, "There's no better demonstration of leadership for a yacht club than for the commodore to cross an ocean in a small boat, thereby showing the way to the rest of the club. If the yacht club dissolves because all the membership went cruising, so be it!"

As we reached the halfway point, the sky remained overcast and there was occasional drizzle. Only now and then did the sun peek through. If you're under the impression that it's a sunny passage from San Francisco to Hawaii, you're mistaken.

When we finally dipped below 30°N, we celebrated by disengaging the Monitor windvane so we could motor to make hot water for showers. Alas, a big wave hit as Greg was removing the windvane paddle, throwing him against the backstay hard enough to knock the paddle from his hands and into the water. Marty and Monty struggled to get the whisker pole down so we could head back into the wind and retrieve the paddle. We were successful, which gave us encouragement that we could rescue someone if they fell overboard.

On the morning of the 24th, Monty predicted we'd soon hit the trades. By midnight we were in them - and about halfway to the islands. It finally dawned on me that we were about 1,000 miles from the nearest land!

Misfortune struck the following day - we ran out of beer! So it became time to break out the wine. Now in the trades, the radar alarm went off several times at night - but because of squalls rather than ships.

From then on the trades sporadically died, meaning we had to motor some of the time. So much for the reliability of the trades. With the wind coming and going, our best days were about 150 miles, and we made decent progress to the islands. On July 3 we sighted Molokai off our port bow.

We expected the Molokai Channel to be its typically boisterous self, but it was calm. We rounded Diamond Head late on the afternoon of July 3 and tied up at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. While waiting for Customs, we found out that most of the boats over 30 feet had been kicked out of the harbor in anticipation of the TransPac boats arriving the following week. So after clearing in and dropping Marty off, we sailed down to the much nicer Ko Olina Marina, and before long had moved into Mischief's new slip. We were 18 mostly pleasant days out of Alameda.

- judie braaten

Moonshadow - Deerfoot 62
George Backhus
Continuing My Circumnavigation

I realize that many of you haven't heard from me in a while, so here's what I've been up to and my upcoming plans. As most of you know, I returned to Auckland from the South Pacific in September of '02 to spend the southern hemisphere summer in New Zealand - both to catch up with Gretchen, the lady in my life, and to enjoy the 2003 America's Cup. It was a fantastic summer, so I decided to take a season off from cruising and spend the winter in New Zealand.

Aside from getting reacquainted with my cold weather clothes, some of the highlights of my winter off from cruising were:
- A week of fantastic skiing in Queenstown. It was the first time I'd skied in 10 years.
- A week of scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef off Cairns, Australia. In my estimation, the diving there was only average and therefore overrated.
- A cold and windy week in Wellington, which is on the southern tip of New Zealand's North Island.
- An even colder and windier week in lovely Dunedin, which is on New Zealand's South Island. I reckon that with global warming, Dunedin will be a choice spot to live in about 1,000 years. Buy now while the prices are still dirt cheap.
- A trip to the States, with a five-day layover in New Orleans during the annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. As usual, the Fest was awesome, and it was great to catch up with friends and family in the 'Gray Area'.
- In October of 2003, I was granted an Indefinite Returning Residency Visa, which will allow me to permanently reside in New Zealand.
- Lastly, I've purchased a condominium in the lovely Auckland suburb of Parnell, and am currently looking for tenants to occupy the place while I'm away.

So, with the leaves turning autumn colors, the days getting shorter, and a winter nip in the air, it's time for Moonshadow and me to head north and west. This time she'll leave New Zealand for good, as we're setting out in earnest to finish the circumnavigation that we started in '94. On June 4, we will have set sail in the Royal Akarana YC's race from Auckland to Noumea, New Caledonia. Joining me for this 1,000-miler are three of my good sailing mates from New Zealand. Not joining me, sadly, are Gretchen and MaiTai, my cat. Gretchen has accepted an excellent career promotion which will take her to Melbourne, Australia, for at least a year. MaiTai will join her in Oz as, alas, my longtime sailing mate has become a bit too old for the rigors of life at sea. Perhaps we will all catch up again some day back in Aotearoa.

After a month in New Caledonia, my very flexible itinerary calls for stops at Queensland and the Northern Territories of Australia, Indonesia, Asia, across the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and up the Suez Canal, summer in the Med, and across the Atlantic to our starting point in Ft. Lauderdale. I'm looking at a time frame of 18 months, but my plans are always drawn in the sand at low tide.

- george 6/2/04

Cruise Notes:

After reading about the violent attack on Bob Hudnall and Dana Cannon of the Beach-based Hudson 50 Doña Lee at Baranquilla, Colombia - see this month's Sightings - we've tried to come up with a list of what might be the five most dangerous cruising areas in the world. Based on everything we've heard and read, we think they would be: 1) Approaching and in the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea, where numerous boats have been shot at or robbed during the last five years; 2) Certain parts of the coast and the nearby waters of Venezuela, where a yachtie was recently murdered while underway, and where there have been numerous robberies and attacks over the years; 3) The Baranquilla region of the coast of Colombia, where violent attacks on yachties seem to be on the increase again; and, 4) Papua New Guinea, where senseless violence is close to the norm, and where a Canadian cruising couple was severely beaten a few years ago. Actually, those are the only four we could come up with. There are other nasty cities, where the dangers are primarily ashore and after dark: Colon, Panama; Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgins; the urban areas of St. Martin/Sint Maarten; Kingstown, Jamaica; and other large cities in the Caribbean. We'd always thought Cartagena was a safe area of Colombia until last fall when John Haste of the San Diego-based Perry 52 Little Wing was robbed at gunpoint while motoring his cat. All of South Africa is dicey, as their murder rate is seven times that of the United States, which we all know is very high. Parts of Brazil are extremely dangerous, too. But that's pretty much our list. Anybody want to amend or add to it?

"On June 5, the Costa Rican Coast Guard seized Flamingo Marina - located on the northwest coast of Guanacaste, Costa Rica - and ordered the owners of all 70 boats in the marina to take their vessels out immediately," report Tom and Lydia Terry. "Flamingo Marina had been taken away from its founder Jim McKey about a year ago, at which time its operation was taken over by the municipality of Santa Cruz. But the marina was now shut down as a result of actions taken by an environmental agency citing pollution from spilled fuel. Nobody seems to know when or if the marina might open again."

Tom and Lydia left San Diego aboard their yacht Rapariga in '92, and say they participated in one of the first Ha-Ha's. (Presumably they mean one of the Sea of Cortez Sailing Weeks, which Latitude also founded, and temporarily nicknamed 'The Baja Ha-Ha'. The San Diego to Cabo Ha-Ha didn't start until '94.) In any event, having sold their boat to a Kiwi in Fiji - that has a funny ring, doesn't it? - the Terrys are now in Costa Rica planning their "next escape".

Speaking of Costa Rica, George Perrochet, the San Rafael-based owner of the Bahia Luminosa Beach Hotel on the Nicoya Peninsula, would love to get copies of Latitude at his resort each month. As it's prohibitively expensive for us to ship them down, we ask that folks with boats in Costa Rica bring them down when returning to your boats. "The Bahia Luminosa Hotel is fronted by the best-protected bay in Costa Rica," says Perrochet, and a fair number of cruisers visit for a few days - and later return for long periods of time. They are sure happy when they can pore over the most recent issues of Latitude."

"Thanks to the generosity of Bruce Ladd, who was owed some time on the Jeanneau 45 Barocco in Anacortes, Washington, we got to spend 10 days at the end of May cruising in the San Juan Islands," report Dave and Merry Wallace of the Redwood City-based Amel-Maramu AirOps. "In addition to Ladd, Rick and Petra Gilmore, mutual friends from the Sequoia YC, rounded out our crew of five. We had a variety of weather. Some of it was clear - we could see Mt. Baker in the background while anchored at Sucia Island - while other times it was overcast. But since the San Juans are generally in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains to the west, we didn't have much rain. What we did have plenty of was seafood, which you can buy right off the dock in places such as Roche Harbor. Our big question was what are the rules of the road regarding float planes? They seem to land and take-off wherever they find a clear path! Although the San Juans definitely aren't as warm as Mexico, we had a great time in a great cruising area, and recommend it highly."

Kim Hastings of Rain Dog in St. Petersburg, Alaska, can tell everyone about the rights - or lack of rights - for float planes. "As someone who commutes to work daily by boat across the 'runway' used by local floatplanes in Petersburg, I recommend the link www.navcen.uscg.gov/mwv/navrules/navrules.htm. In Rule 18, Responsibilities Between Vessels, (e), it reads: "A seaplane on the water shall, in general, keep well clear of all vessels and avoid impeding their navigation. In circumstances, however, where risk of collision exists, she shall comply with the Rules of this part." In contrast to the rules of the road, most - all? - state boating laws exclude seaplanes from the definition of a vessel."

In other words, float planes land where they can find a clear path because they are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to the rules of the road.

"I'm still immersed in repairing Örnaerie, the wood Hallberg 29 I sailed from Moss Landing to Northern Europe - and more recently Spain," writes Ivan Rusch, who is in his late 70s and currently living at Puerto Sherry in Cadiz, Spain. "When the repairs are done, my boat and I can hopefully explore the rest of the safe and civilized parts of the Med. Shammy Underfoot, my cat, is fine and hasn't been blown off the decks yet by the unceasing levante winds that blow airborne dust up from the Sahara all day and night. I had a tarp covering my boat, but it's 95% gone now. As for myself, I'm just recovering from approximately six days of lung congestion, and am feeling weak. The magic of rest, however, gave my body a chance to self-heal. But I'm eating well and have gained weight - even though I've mostly become a vegetarian. I say 'mostly' because I recently ate some escargot - you know, snails. The dictionary defines them as "animals that live in shells", so there goes my claim to vegetarianism! You pick the snails out of the shell with a toothpick, and are they ever delicious! I've also given up alcohol and coffee, and don't drink tea with caffeine. Tomorrow at 9 a.m. I'm taking a bus to Gibraltar to pick up engine parts. 'Gib' has had an awesome history ever since the Brits stole it from the Spaniards in 1704 with a naval bombardment. While there, I'll eat fish and chips - yum-yum - and maybe take the trolley trip to near the summit of the rock. When it comes to shopping for boat parts and stuff, I'm getting accustomed to the terrible service in the local stores and chandleries. They hate to have to order things they don't have in stock. Anyway, I hope to have Örnaerie repaired to better and safer than new in about eight months. At that time, I plan to head for more remote places - such as Armenia."

Armenia?! How do you hope to get to a landlocked country east of Turkey with your boat?

"In November of last year, my wife and I moved to the Washington, D.C. area due to a job promotion," writes Randy Hasness of the Alameda-based Wauquiez 33 Moon Glade. "As it stands right now, we'll be in the Virginia area at least another three years, at which time I'll retire. We've considered shipping our boat back East, but after spending our first winter here, the thought of maintaining a boat during the off season is not appealing. Do you know of any good, safe marinas on either the Atlantic or Pacific side of Mexico where we could ship our boat and keep her there year 'round? We could then visit her throughout the year - particularly during Virginia's cold winters - and we'd have a good jumping off point when we retire. Any wisdom, thoughts, and guidance on this idea would be greatly appreciated. P.S. Since we can't pick up Latitude out here, we've subscribed, because we can't live without it."

Thanks for the kind words. We recommend you leave your boat on the Pacific side of Mexico, because it's a much easier and less expensive trip to get her there than to the Caribbean side of the country. If you're able to take longish vacations in the winter to enjoy your boat, we'd recommend Marina Vallarta or Paradise Marina on Banderas Bay, because of the terrific winter weather and the most consistently good sailing conditions in Mexico. But if you're primarily looking for low cost storage, with some sailing, you'd be better off at one of the marinas in Mazatlan, which are comparatively inexpensive. If you're looking to just put your boat on the hard for three years, Marina Seca up near Guaymas would be a good choice. No matter which of these you might choose, you'd be perfectly positioned to start your cruising in three years. The only drawback with these places is that they are quite hot, humid, and rainy from about the middle of June through October.

Panama Canal officials are apparently making life more difficult - and expensive - for some small yachts wanting to transit the Canal. According to a letter written by Don of the 49-ft Tamure to Craig Owings of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, when the Canal Admeasurer filled out the Admeasurement form, Don made a mistake by saying his boat was capable of a sustained speed of 6-7 knots under power. Don told Craig this was a big mistake because the Canal now has a new rule that if boats can't maintain a sustained eight knots, they have to take two days to do a transit. In the case of a 49-ft boat, this means the normal $600 for the transit and refundable $850 'buffer' - but also another $440 for an interrupted transit fee, $320 in launch fees, $50 for moorage, and $50 for something else. As a result, the final cost of Tamure's transit might be more than double what it would be if the owner had said his boat could sustain eight knots under power and therefore made it through the Canal in one day. We say "might be" because Don was told that if he does make it through the Canal in one day - something he has no control over - he'll get all his money back minus the one-day transit fee of $600.

"What ticks me off," wrote Don, "is that currently boats from the Colon side are picked up in the evening, spend the night on Lake Gatun, then continue on the next day. But they don't have to pay interuption fees, mooring fees, or launch fees. Mine is also the first boat to have to pay these additional fees. I know, because a 40-footer and a 28-footer went through in the last couple of days, and they only had to pay the transit fee and buffer."

In all fairness to the Canal, each locking through process is worth a lot of money - an average of about $100,000 - so if they have to wait for slow boats, the delay really does cost them big bucks. And there are some small boats. When we came through in May, there was an outboard-powered cat that locked through with us on the Pacific side that was late and caused some delay. Not a huge delay, but if you put a couple of those together it's $100,000 down the Canal drains.

We still believe the long term solution for smaller boats in the Canal is that they be raised 84 feet at one end and lowered 84 feet at the other end some means other than giant locks made for ships. For instance, boats to about 45 feet could easily be pulled out on hydraulic trailers - as is done at Marina Seca, the Napa Valley Marina, and many other places - at each end, driven around the locks, and relaunched. On a volume basis, this could surely be done for no more than the canal fee of $500, and the boats wouldn't have to wait for days on end for a transit time. In addition, they wouldn't have to pay for line-handlers. Furthermore, by eliminating small boat-caused delays, the Canal could easily afford to buy several tractors and hydraulic trailers to do the job.

"We're just a few days from heading out of California for the East Coast to begin the cruising dream aboard our Stevens 47 cutter Providence, currently in Annapolis," report Northern Californians Chris and Frances Havel, with kids Aaron and Moses. "Unfortunately, we've just been so busy trying to leave - in addition to deciding just three weeks ago to sell our house in Oakland - that I haven't had any time to write. At the end of April, however, I spent 10 amazingly busy and fun days preparing, launching, and sailing the boat to Mystic, Connecticut, where she awaits our arrival. The sailing conditions and boat were both beyond my expectations."

"Please see the accompanying photo to check out the new arrangment of slips at Marina de La Paz," write Mary and Mac Shroyer, owners of the marina that was hit so hard by Hurricane Marty last summer. "Good progress is being made, and long-term residents have selected and settled into their preferred slips. In the lower righthand corner of the photo you will see the barge and crane at work placing pre-stressed concrete pilings as part of a breakwater system to protect the marina from the southwest. A similar breakwater will be placed on the northeast side, which has already been reinforced by installing pilings every 10 feet.

"The Association of Mexican Tourist Marinas continues to press for elimination of port clearance papers," the Shroyers continue. "A bill is in the hands of a committee at the National Legislature. It is being held up from presentation to the Legislature by the committee head for reasons that are unrelated to the question of clearance papers. Efforts are being made to unstick the legislation. Does it sound like Washington, DC, or Sacramento? It's the price of democracy. In another matter, the sound of death rattles is emanating from the throat of the Escalera Nautica, as Fonatur - the Mexican tourism development agency - attempts to change emphasis and direction. They have offered for sale the basin in La Paz between the town and the airport which, along with Santa Rosalillita on the Pacific Coast of Baja, was to be part of their program. Fonatur is now concentrating on the Nopalo area of Loreto, for which they have apparently found a partner/investor."

We're tempted to boast that as soon as the Escalera Nautica plan was announced, we went on record saying it was never going to happen. But what's the point of boasting when everybody who knew anything about the project realized it was DOA from day one. Having big plans is one thing, having the money to pull them off is another.

"I was busy with my boat in the yard, but am now about ready to leave for my summer cruise in the northwest Med," writes Noel G. of the Grand Mott, France-based Outremer 43 cat Laia. Noel used to own a monohull in Sausalito that he later cruised to Mexico. "I should leave next weekend for the French Côte d'Azur, then head to the Italian Riviera, then maybe sail back throught the Balearic Islands of Spain. I would very much like to visit Croatia, but it's quite a ways away and will probably have to wait until next year.

Many Ha-Ha vets will remember Tim Schaaf, who for years was the Assistant Harbormaster at Cabo Isle Marina, and who therefore was in charge of assigning slips to the arriving Ha-Ha boats. The last we heard, he was instrumental in pulling many of the boats off the beach at Puerto Escondido after hurricane Marty in the Sea of Cortez, and was then getting ready to head for French Polynesia aboard his Hunter 33 Casual Water. But cruising plans change, don't they?

"I bought a Moorings 4500 catamaran coming out of charter service in the British Virgin Islands," writes Schaaf. "I used to very much be a monohull sailor, but then I was very impressed during a sail aboard Profligate in '97 - even though it was long before her bugs were worked out. The other culprit is Blair Grinols, who has probably sailed more miles in the Pacific than anyone over the last six or seven years with his 46-ft cat Capricorn Cat. Both cats had obviously had their share of tough weather, yet stayed right side up, and both owners seem to have had such a ball with their boats, that I opened my mind and took the plunge. I have to say, it's kinda fun being a true rookie again, as with a cat it's sort of like learning to sail all over again. Before buying the cat, we visited with John and Lynn Ringeis of Novato, who own and charter their new Lagoon 410 Moonshine based in the British Virgins. We'd learned about them in 'Lectronic, and they were a great help when we visited with them in the BVIs. My idea is to charter the cat for four months each winter, either in the Caribbean or the west coast of Mexico, doing golf and sailing charters. During previous incarnations, I was a charter skipper, and for six years I was the head golf coach at Stanford. We'll start in the Caribbean. By the way, the 'we' includes Marsha McCoskrie, my special friend of the last six or seven months. We actually attended the same high school in Bangkok, Thailand, but didn't run in the same circles. We reconnected last fall as an indirect result of my brother's death last year in a plane crash - it was sort of a final present from him. Marsha loves boating and we just finished a nice cruise aboard Casual Water in the Sea of Cortez. I'm not sure about the fate of my old boat, as she's been such a big part of my life for 22 years that I won't be able to easily let her go. Right now she's on the hard in Marina San Carlos. Between the Ha-Ha and catamarans, my life would honestly have been much easier had I never heard of Latitude - but so far it's been a good ride."

"The Clifton and Hatton families took our Chung Hwa 36 ketch Shamaness out of the Marina Seca dry storage yard near Guaymas, then sailed her across the Sea of Cortez to attend the 2004 Loreto Fest at Puerto Escondido in early May," report Dennis and Kristin Clifton of Novato. "The weather was fabulous, with hot days and cool nights. And the water was clear and warm - just perfect for afternoon swims and sun showers. We were delighted to see that the middle of the Sea was loaded with life: dolphins and whales; pelicans, boobies, and seagulls; and lots of fish. The winds were out of the southwest at 5-15 knots in the afternoon for the first week, and for the trip back from Mulege to San Carlos, we enjoyed warm NNW winds of 10 to 20 knots. The wind on the beam was perfect for our ketch.

"As for Loreto Fest itself," continue the Cliftons, "we met our friends Jan and Alan Katz of Cyrene at the Friday night Loreto Fest Potluck. What a deal that was, with 10-peso cervezas and a wonderful evening of cruiser music. Speaking of cruisers, there were about 120 boats, so there were probably 400 cruisers for the well-organized mega-potluck. All the normal Loreto Fest activities went on for the remainder of the weekend, and everyone had a terrific time. The event was started about a dozen years ago by a small group of cruisers who agreed to meet in the Puerto Escondido anchorage and spend a few days cleaning up the garbage on the beaches and on the bottom of the harbor. With each passing year the number of participants grew and the garbage disappeared, so the annual clean-up became a quickie job. So the Festers came up with a new goal - raising money for several charities in nearby Loreto. The event even has a board of directors now, and on Sunday night they announced that about $7,000 a year is donated to local schools and a medical facility in town. One of the event's favorite causes is providing dormitory facilities to children living on ranches in remote areas, so the kids can attend school during the week and go home on weekends. Some of the beneficiaries are now attending high school, and before long some will be going to college. We don't know all the details, but we do know that this tremendously fun cruiser event does a lot of good for the community, too.

The biggest story in Baja this season has been the grounding - and refloating a week later - of Martin and Robin Hardy's San Pedro-based custom trawler Cat's Meow at the Hot Springs anchorage. It was all the more emotional because the Hardys and their trawler had saved at least eight boats that had been driven ashore last summer by Hurricane Marty at Puerto Escondido. Their misfortune started on the night of the 20th, when Martin decided that despite it being dark, they needed to leave the anchorage right away because the wind was coming up. Alas, he made a wrong turn in the darkness, and put their beloved trawler on the rocks. A large contingent of cruisers descended upon the scene early the next morning. She was patched and a path made for her to be pulled back into the Sea. Alas, the Mexican Navy wasn't able to pull her straight, and a stabilizer was ripped off, putting a two-foot by two-foot hole in her hull. She sank bow down, and at high tide the water was up to the top of her salon. It was horrible. After the Mexican Navy left, the cruisers from some 25 boats got to work with dive gear, pumps, anchors, line, and all types of other salvage gear. With the motoryacht Bydand pulling at almost full throttle for several hours, the boat was set upright and secured by 12 anchors. Then the underwater patching and other repairs began. The first attempt to refloat her fell short just minutes from success when the main pump gave out at the last minute, allowing the boat to fill with water again. The rescue team, sunburned, exhausted, and slimed with diesel, was heartbroken. But on the second try, a week after the grounding, there was success, and Siempre Sabado took the trawler in tow to Puerto Escondido. Many other cruisers stayed behind to completely clean the beach. Before long, Dick of Corazon, Lance of Milagro, and Dave of Equity - with the help of others - got the once-submerged engine going again. Cat's Meow was then towed to La Paz by Argo, where the very long and expensive refit has begun. The Hardys, who are devastated, didn't have any insurance. So if you'd like to help cruisers in need who have already helped many other cruisers in need, make your check out to Martin Hardy and send it to Mike Garrow, 325 Pine Street, Sausalito, CA 94965. You'll be doing a good thing.

As we enter the middle of the summer cruising season, we hope you are out having fun on your boat. We'd love to hear from you, especially if we haven't before. Just send a paragraph or two, plus a high res photo if you can, and we'll take it from there. Remember to include your boat name, boat type, your full name, and your boat's hailing port.

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