With reports this month from
Mahina Tiare at Cocos Island and then
crossing the Caribbean; from Manu Kai
on crossing the Atlantic on their way to completing a very swift
circumnavigation; from Royal Treat
on the passage from Puerto Vallarta to Hilo; from Solstice
in Australia on the last year of a six-year cruise; and the greatest
number of Cruise Notes ever.
Tiare - Hallberg-Rassy 48
John Neal & Amanda Swan Neal
East Across The Caribbean
(Friday Harbor, WA)
As was the case in '00, we and our students sailed from Acapulco
to Costa Rica's Cocos Island. We were able to do a lot more sailing
- including with the chute - than the previous time. Our two-day
stop at Cocos was wonderful. It started when we were checked
in by Katty, a lovely barefoot marine biologist, rather than
guys in fatigues carrying automatic weapons. Katty apologized
for the new, higher national park fees of $25/person a day, plus
the same for the boat. Our offshore students did a killer hike
to the big waterfall behind the research station, then over the
ridge to the next bay, where we met them with Mahina Tiare.
Before we arrived in Panama, we were told the wait for a transit
would be 18 days. Fortunately, it didn't take that long. By the
way, we transited the Canal with a really nice young married
couple, Tim McFadden and Ariel Pavlick of the San Francisco-based
Golden Gate 30 Hebe. They are seven months out of San
Francisco, and appear to be having a great time. She was an electrical
engineer on NASA projects, and he was a programmer.
Once through the Canal, we had an awesome time out at the San
Blas Islands. While at Ciedras Island, a very funky Colombian
boat - it looked as though it had been built on the beach using
chain-saws - came in loaded down with bananas, onions, cabbage,
and other fresh stuff. The boat was powered by a very old 6-71
Detroit Diesel, which must make one heck of a racket when opened
up. While Amanda was buying cabbage and the rest of us were just
looking around, we kept hearing the crew say, "Coca? Coca?"
to each other. We think they were trying to decide if they should
try to sell us some.
We were surprised when we arrived at the Hollandes Cays, normally
one of the most crowded anchorages in the San Blas Islands, as
there were only three boats there! By the way, if anyone hasn't
seen it, they should check out the gorgeous new Panama Cruising
Guide by Eric Bauhaus. It's absolutely amazing, and covers
every inch of Panama.
Our plan to make it east across the Caribbean - often a very
difficult trip - was to go to east Cartagena, then flop over
on the other tack and head as much to the northeast as possible.
Our goal was going to be laying the southern tip of Hispaniola
in order to stop at the Dominican Republic. After that, we'd
work our way east across the Mona Passage to Ponce, Puerto Rico,
which we enjoyed so much on our last trip, and even further east
across the U.S. and British Virgins.
Well, you have to modify plans to match changes in the conditions
- and sometimes those changes in conditions are unexpectedly
good. We waited in the San Blas Islands for a forecast of moderate
southeast trades, which allowed us to make it to Cartagena without
much trouble. When it came time to make the 1,000-mile passage
to Hispaniola, Commander's Weather couldn't have given us a better
forecast - E to ESE winds of 10-20 knots. And indeed, we got
a great start from Cartagena, as 40 miles out, we were broad
reaching, of all things, with 2+ knots of current behind us!
The last time we'd made this passage, it was blowing 30 to 32
knots until a day out of Hispaniola, and we had to point as high
as we could.
Well, thanks to wind out of the southeast, we were able to point
much higher than we expected, and thus made it to Puerto Rico
without having to stop at Hispaniola at all! We covered the 950
miles in six days. Our strongest sustained winds were 25 knots,
and the seas weren't too bad. Our success in our passage can
be attributed to waiting for - and getting - a drop in the wind
speed and a shift in the trades from the northeast to the southeast.
Since we're way ahead of schedule, Amanda and I are checking
out some anchorages along the southeast coast of Puerto Rico
as well as Vieques. We still have awesome sailing conditions,
with 14 knots from the ESE and very modest seas. It's one glorious
sailing day after the next. We can't wait to get the anchor down
and do some snorkeling. By the way, they've made some great improvements
to the boating facilities at Ponce.
While crashing across the Caribbean, I read your editorial response
to the woman who was thinking about sailing a Tahiti ketch eastward
across the Caribbean. Nothing against Tahiti ketches, but I have
to agree with your response. Unless an exceptional weather window
opened, and unless the skipper was really experienced and incredibly
lucky, I don't think a Tahiti ketch could complete that passage.
I don't think a lot of folks have any clue how difficult it can
be going against the trades and currents under normal conditions,
even with a modern 48-footer such as Mahina Tiare.
- john 06/15/06
Manu Kai - Hans Christian 41
Harley & Jennifer Earl
A Whirlwind Circumnavigation
As has often been the case in the first 18 months of our nearly
completed circumnavigation, we are faced with a decision. Should
we suck it up and motorsail up the coast of Central America and
Mexico, or launch ourselves blindly out along the 10th parallel
of the Pacific in hope of finding the trades that will allow
us to sail a big arc back to California - all the while praying
that there won't be any early season hurricanes.
When we were last in the pages of Latitude with tales
to tell, we were in Simon's Town, South Africa, awaiting a lull
in the constant near-gale force winds that would allow us to
weather the Cape of Good Hope. We got that lull on the 17th of
January, and it lasted just long enough for us to round the Cape
and point northwest toward the Caribbean before the winds started
raging again. Triple-reefed with a bit of jib out, we made a
couple of 180-mile days and thought our Atlantic crossing was
going to be a snap.
Yeah, right. The wind then went light - so light that a 90-mile
day was considered a good run. It's 5,800 miles from Cape Town
to Antigua, so motoring in calms wasn't much of an option. It
would ultimately take us 50 sailing days to cover the distance,
with a two-night stop in St. Helena, and an overnight stop in
Fernando de Noronha off of Brazil. Both anchorages were in deep,
open roadsteads, and featured gunnel-to-gunnel rolling all night
long. Sleep was hard to come by, even when cocooned with lee
cloths and pillows. Both stops allowed us to jerry jug some diesel
and water, the latter being important since it only rained 20
minutes in our 53-day passage. By the end of the trip, we were
down to a saltwater bucket shower on the bow every three days,
followed by a cupful of fresh water for a rinse. At least there
was no limit to the amount of saltwater we could use.
Despite the rolling, our stop at St. Helena was worthwhile. The
island has historical significance, as it was the home of Napoleon
after he was forced into exile. The island has its quirks, as
its currency is good nowhere else in the world except Ascension
Island 600 miles to the northwest. It can be a harrowing island,
as it was an E-ticket ride on a ferry from our boat to the landing
quay. Once there, timing the roll of an 8-ft swell, we had to
jump for a rope hanging from a metal bar, then swing onto the
quay - all under the amused gaze of the locals. If you think
that's scary, try stepping from the quay onto the stern of the
launch, mid swell, with full jerry cans in each hand.
As for Fernando, we'd give it a pass next time. As a national
park, the fees levied on transiting yachts are unconscionable.
They wanted the equivalent of $60/day for our 41-footer, plus
$30/day per crewmember. Even though the first 24 hours are free
for each crewmember, at those prices we figured that we should
have been entitled to maid service and a chocolate on the pillow.
Instead, we got a rolling anchorage and a two kilometer walk
up a hill to get petrol. But we were there, so we paid the fee
and left the next day with an additional 30 gallons of diesel
in the tanks. Had it been more affordable, we would have stuck
around a few days for the fabled diving - and probably would
have happily dropped the same amount of cash in the local economy
at bars, restaurants, and dive shops. But that's why we are sailors,
and not smart like the politicians.
The light winds continued north of the ITCZ, although by then
they were out of the northeast, so the apparent wind was a little
fresher. As such, our boat speed averaged about five knots for
the remaining 2,000 miles. Proving once again that you should
always be careful what you wish for, the wind increased to better
than 30 knots true the last night out of Antigua, forcing us
to slow down after 49 days of trying everything to go faster.
As it was, we had to heave to for about three hours before passing
into English Harbor with just enough light to avoid the reef
and the boats anchored pretty much everywhere.
Antigua was full of megayachts and megayachties, the former with
masts so tall they had to carry red lights aloft, and the latter
with pocketbooks so deep that the owners think nothing of paying
a fortune in monthly upkeep to merely be aboard a few weeks a
year. Great work if you can get it, we suppose. We lasted two
days in Antigua, as we ate an inordinate number of cheeseburgers
washed down with the local brew, provisioned lightly, filled
up on diesel and water, and set out on the 30-hour passage to
the British Virgins.
Once in the British Virgins, we did absolutely nothing for three
weeks. We festooned our boat with hammocks and dive gear, as
we motored to a new anchorage every three or four days. We dove
at least twice a day, had the occasional lunch ashore in a beach
bar, but pretty much just relaxed in preparation for the last
push back home. In early April, we took a mooring at Red Hook
on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgins - where, if we got up by 6 a.m. each
morning, we could see the jockeys swimming their racehorses through
Our 980-mile downwind sail to the San Blas Islands of Panama
was atypically windless for two days - more time on the ancient
diesel. But Harley's son had joined us for the passage, and the
opportunity to sleep eight straight hours - he got the 2300 to
0300 watch because he's young - unheard of in our circumnavigation
to date - made it an almost painless passage. We spent several
days cruising the San Blas, bartered our surplus canned goods
for molas with the Kuna, and then made the overnight sail to
Cristobal to arrange for a transit of the Canal.
Colon is pretty much a pit, and at the time we arrived there
was a three-week wait to get a slot to transit the Canal. Make
that three weeks on the hook in The Flats under a cloud of burned
bunker fuel from all the shipping and the smoke from the incinerator
ashore. Three weeks of hanging out at the Panama Canal YC, where
the beers are admittedly only a buck and the Chinese food is
palatable. The only safe way out of the club was in a taxi, as
the streets and alleys teem with underage miscreants armed with
cheap guns. Although the young thugs are pursued by a police
force on moto-cross bikes armed with Uzis, they only draw three
months for aggravated assault or armed robbery, and only slightly
more for murder - because they are minors.
It took two days to get our Canal paperwork sorted out with the
help of Tito, a local taxi driver and expediter, who is a cousin
of seemingly everyone in town. His relationships helped immensely
during our bureaucratic dances with the Port Captain, Immigration,
Customs, and Canal Operations.
Once our transit date was fixed, Harley and his son did a transit
as line-handlers on the U.S. Virgins-based Midnight Blue to get
a feel for the process. Upon their return, we sailed 10 miles
east to the Rio Chagres, and spent a few days away from Colon
listening to the howler monkeys - shades of Kong and Jurassic
Park - and watching the toucans and crocs. Upon returning to
Colon, we found that our transit had been bumped up eight days,
and we were scheduled to transit in 48 hours! A mad scramble
ensued to arrange for line-handlers and fenders, and to provision
and cook for the crew. We were very fortunate to get John and
Debbie from the Tampa-based Shamrock, and Tila, crew from
Backstage Pass, to make the transit with us.
Our two-day transit was a piece of cake, as we were the center
boat in a three-boat raft-up, leaving nothing for the handlers
to do but sit back and relax. Most of the stress fell on us at
the helm, as we had to maneuver the unwieldy 35 tons of raft-up
in and through the locks. We were comforted by the fact that
if we messed up, we had huge fiberglass 'fenders' on each side
to take the brunt of the beating.
Just after 2 p.m. on May 9, Manu Kai entered her home
waters of the North Pacific for the first time since August 2004.
After a couple of days hanging around the Balboa YC - just a
bar since the fabled clubhouse burned down a number of years
ago - we island-hopped the 350 miles here to Golfito, where we
are now contemplating how to tackle this last - and at 3,500
miles, longest - leg of our whirlwind circumnavigation. With
luck and wind, we'll be making landfall in San Diego in late
June, and then gunkholing up the coast to be back in the Bay
area in August. See you soon!
- jennifer 05/15/06
Harley and Jennifer - "Whirlwind
circumnavigation" is right. Two people going around the
world in two years aboard a heavy displacement 41-footer - that
really moving! Almost everyone else takes at least three years.
Royal Treat - Morgan 43
Puerto Vallarta To Hilo
You can call off the search, because after 22 days of sailing
a 3,100 zig-zag course, we made it safely from Puerto Vallarta
to Hilo, Hawaii. Onboard with me were, of course, my wife Terra,
my daughter Patricia, and Mark Sciarretta, my sailing buddy from
the old days in Mexico. There was a great spirit on the boat
the entire way, the watches went well, and nothing significant
broke. The solar panels and wind generator kept the power going
the entire trip - even with the Ham and SSB radio and Sailmail
running at least two hours a day. It was the first time Royal
Treat had gone sailing for 22 days without running her engine!
Before we started the trip, we took Royal Treat on a test
run. The engine overheated the first time in 11 years, so we
had to sail back to the marina. The problem was that the saltwater
pump had run dry, and all the paddles broke off the impeller.
This resulted in our leaving two days after our buddyboat, Salacia,
a Catalina 42. It turned out to be a good thing for us, as Salacia
had strong winds - up to 49 knots - during their 19-day crossing.
They had planned to sail from Hawaii to Canada, too, but decided
to hire a delivery skipper to save their marriage. We, on the
other hand, had 15 to 30 knots of wind, which kept us moving
all the time. When we got too much wind, we switched latitudes.
If we wanted less wind, we sailed at 20N, if we wanted more wind,
we sailed at 18N.
During our 22-day crossing, we saw five large ships enroute from
Panama to Honolulu, and one sailboat on her way from San Diego
to the Marquesas. Three of the ships were on collision courses
with us, and gave us right-of-way. It's a very large expanse
of ocean between Mexico and Hawaii, so I was surprised at how
close the ships came to us. Even the sailboat got as close as
half a mile. I know I'm a magnet to disaster everywhere that
I go, but the chances of seeing anyone on a 3,000-mile stretch
of open ocean is thin. And seeing a total of six boats is much
The boat's tank water tasted a little bit funny. I'm not sure,
but it might have been because we accidentally put some diesel
in the water tank before we left. Nonetheless, it improved the
way the inside of the boat smelled. Besides, I think that the
'gas station attendant' scent gets you going in the morning.
In any event, we got used to it after a couple of days.
In the middle of the trip, I smelled acetone throughout the boat.
After a long search, I found a can of starting fluid in the bilge.
It had a small hole, so it was slowly spraying a fine mist of
highly explosive gas around the inside of the boat. The incident
brought out the compulsive side of me, and I began checking the
boat for other potential hidden disasters. A few days later,
an alarm went off inside the boat. Not knowing what it was, I
shut the whole boat down, and began checking the smoke detector,
bilge, GPS, and radar - but the alarm continued. It was Terra,
my brilliant wife, who finally discovered the cause. The guitar-tuner
was giving us an F sharp!
But even with the small mishaps, we had a good trip. Of course,
there were a few black nights out there when the wind was blowing
30 and large waves were hitting us from different directions.
At times like that, with the spray hitting you in the face, you
start wondering what you could be doing instead of sailing. But
lucky for me, I have a very short memory, and just keep going.
And the sight of land ultimately makes it all worthwhile.
Hilo turned out to be a very friendly place, as even the Customs
officers were a delight to deal with. Their bright smiles and
welcoming manners made me feel less like a criminal and more
like an honest Swedish man. We took refuge in Hilo for a week
- despite the fact that it rained every day. But it was pleasant
tropical rain. We also rented a nice, big chick-magnet - a silver
green metallic Lincoln Continental. She was a gas hog, but definitely
the most comfortable car that I've ever ridden in. I kinda felt
as though I'd been upgraded from coach to first-class. The car
was so big, comfy, and climate-controlled that Terra wanted to
move off the boat and into the car.
Anyway, we spent some time looking around the Big Island, and
at the top of the list, of course, was Kilauea, the volcano that
is still steaming and is still pouring molten lava down her sides.
While sailing around the island our last night there, we went
in close and saw the bright red lava tumble into the ocean, causing
steam to rise and clouds to develop. It was something you don't
see every day - especially at night. Even Terra was impressed.
We are now at Honomalino Bay on the kona side of the island,
our first anchorage in the Hawaiian Islands. There is a very
beautiful black sand beach, a bunch of palm trees, and nobody
else around. The water is so clear that you can see 100 feet
in all directions. Life is wonderful, and we're enjoying the
- anders 05/09/06
Solstice - Freya 39
A Year In Australia
After being away for more than six years, Solstice is
now back in California. Solstice came back to Alameda
using Dockwise Transport from Brisbane to Ensenada, followed
by a short delivery up the coast. During most of 2005 Eleanor
and I cruised along Australia's east coast, from Sydney in the
south to Airlie Beach in the north. Australia was a real high
note on which to finish our cruising.
To begin with, Australia has some of the most unusual wildlife
in the world. As soon as we arrived in Coffs Harbour, we began
to notice the remarkable birds and animals. I jokingly suggested
that we ought to try to see and photograph all of Australia's
great animal icons - kangaroo, koala, platypus, emu, kookaburra,
crocodile, and great white shark. Oh, and they all had to be
in the wild.
After a while it went from being a joke to being something more
like a mission. I wasn't serious about the shark, but I thought
we stood a good chance of snapping shots of the others. We took
a road trip to Tasmania to look for platypuses, and after a week
of frustration finished with a great success just hours before
boarding the ferry back to Melbourne. At the end of a year, we
had seen and photographed every animal on the list - except for
the crocodile and the great white shark. I thought we did pretty
good, as seeing a croc in the wild is something that even most
Aussies haven't done.
The people of Australia are worth noting as well. We found them
to be much more like Americans than the people we've met in our
travels. Among older Australians we found a friendliness and
generosity that seemed to come from another era. We were delighted
to make close friends with some great Australians.
It helped that, thanks to our boat, we had an Australian connection.
Solstice is a Freya 39, patterned after the famous Australian
yacht Freya, which is distinguished as being the only
yacht ever to win three consecutive Sydney to Hobart races ('63,
'64 and '65). Freya's designer, Trygve Halvorson, still
lives in Sydney, so we looked him up. Now in his mid-80s, he
was delighted to see us. In fact, he took us to lunch at the
Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, where he's something of a celebrity.
I felt like a yachtsman's Alex Haley, tracing the roots of our
boat. We also visited Trevor Gowland, the lead shipwright on
Freya and numerous other famous boats, including Gretel.
In 1962 Gretel beat Weatherly in the second race
of the America's Cup series, making her the first challenger
to win a race against the U.S. since 1934. Our research went
on to include a visit to Constitution Dock in Hobart, where the
Sydney to Hobart Race finishes, and a visit to the boatyard on
the Paramata River where Freya was built.
One of the nice things about cruising the
east coast of Australia is that if you time things right, you
can usually get favorable winds for sailing where you want to
go. There is a quasi-stationary ridge of high pressure that hangs
on Australia's east coast, but it moves slightly with the seasons,
producing more southerlies and southeasterlies in May and June
- just when you want to be heading north towards the tropics.
In October, when you want to be heading south again to get out
of the heat, the ridge obliges by moving slightly offshore, generating
winds from the north and northeast. It's so convenient for the
cruising sailor that I'm proposing a ballot initiative to institute
a similar system in California.
So in July, we found ourselves in Bundaberg and heading north
for the Great Barrier Reef. Many cruisers that we met were eager
to buy camper vans and start exploring Australia's red interio
- a worthy endeavor, but in my opinion that's the wrong thing
to do if you have a boat and limited time. Flights to Australia
are cheap enough to come back and do land travel anytime. Meanwhile,
many of the best parts of the Great Barrier Reef can only be
accessed with a private boat. Charterboats aren't allowed in
these areas, and the places where the tour boats go tend to be
worn out from overuse.
We were gifted to have nearly a week of calm weather in which
to cruise and dive the reefs just north of the Whitsunday Islands.
These included Hook, Line, Sinker, and Barb and Bait Reefs. It
was the best snorkeling we had seen in six years of cruising,
topping our previous favorite of Fakarava Atoll in the Tuamotus.
All of these reefs are part of Australia's National Park system,
and are protected to varying degrees. This has helped to ensure
an abundance of sea life that, in our experience, is beyond compare.
It was, for us, a grand finale.
The end of the year was our deadline to return to our family
and friends in the States. This left us with the question of
what to do with Solstice. Many of the other international
cruisers that we met in Australia were faced with similar questions.
The option of continuing westward to complete a circumnavigation
has lost popularity recently because piracy and political unrest
have given the traditional route to and up the Red Sea a sense
of danger. Meanwhile, a strong Australian economy and currency
have made the option of selling a boat in Australia extremely
attractive. The other options include sailing your boat home
through the Pacific, shipping her home, or importing her into
Australia. For those wishing to continue cruising, moving seasonally
through the Australia/New Zealand/Tonga/Fiji/New Caledonia region
is also an attractive option.
We had friends in all of these camps. I worked up a rather elaborate
analysis to compare all the options for ourselves - including
all the costs of importation, duty, and so forth, versus shipping/delivery
costs. From a purely financial point of view, I didn't find a
very dramatic difference between the options, with the exchange
rate being a key factor. At an exchange of .75 U.S. for one Australian
dollar (as I write this the exchange is about .73), selling our
boat in Australia looked favorable, and many U.S. cruisers did
sell their boats. At .70, the advantage of selling in Australia
is marginal, and below .70 it looked better to ship the boat
But our decision had little to do with finances. Although it
was time to get back to the U.S., we simply weren't ready to
sell the boat. The new purpose-built yacht carriers being run
by the Dutch company Dockwise offered a convenient and (relatively)
economical means to get Solstice back to her berth in
the Bay Area. While we were making the shipping arrangements,
Dockwise added a stop in Ensenada for the Super Servant 4, which
reduced the cost and made shipping even more attractive.
I was curious about what choices other cruisers were making,
so I did a little research. First I called the Australian Customs
service. They told me that in the '04-'05 12-month reporting
period, 942 'small craft' had arrived in Australia, of which
850 were believed to be private yachts. What happened to them?
Surprisingly, they didn't have any idea.
My next visit was with Euan MacDonald of AustraliaWide Boat Sales,
the largest yacht brokerage in Queensland, representing an estimated
30% of boat sales in the Brisbane area. MacDonald told me that
they currently had 15 foreign yachts for sale, which was an increase
of 100% since 2004. They sold 12 foreign yachts in the past 12
months. Extrapolating to the rest of the market, this would suggest
about 40 foreign yachts had been sold in just the Brisbane area
during the past 12 months.
What about yachts being shipped home? I spoke with Jason Roberts
at Aurora Logistics, the Brisbane agent for Dockwise. He told
me that the Super Servant 4 is making two runs a year with about
40 yachts per run. They are also making arrangements for an equal
number of yachts to be shipped out as deck cargo, which adds
up to 160 yachts per year being shipped home from Australia through
their company. There are also yachts being shipped by other shippers.
It's still hard to get a clear picture from these numbers. First
of all, many of the 850 yachts entering the country are boats
that come for special events such as the Sydney to Hobart Race
or Hamilton Race Week. These are not cruising boats, and the
majority will find their way home by the same means through which
they arrived. Second, while Brisbane may be the largest market
in Australia for cruising yachts, it isn't the only market, and
plenty of boats are undoubtedly moving in places like Sydney,
Bundaberg and Mackay. Finally, while they may be the largest,
Aurora Logistics isn't the only agent shipping yachts.
What is evident though, is that two new trends are on the rise
for cruisers reaching Australia. The first is the trend toward
shipping boats home as the process gets easier and more economical
with custom-made carriers and improved shipping routes. The second
is the trend toward selling boats into the hot Australian boat
market. This market is being fueled by good exchange rates for
the sellers and high demand from prosperous Australians.
How wise is using Dockwise? I found the operation to be efficient
and professional, but I was sometimes frustrated trying to get
through to their agents. The contract was amazingly simple for
such a large undertaking, which I found refreshing.
My advice for anybody loading a boat on a Dockwise carrier is
to have lots of big fenders ready - even buying some if you have
to. A fender board is not a bad idea either - one saved my rail!
These are all needed because the boats are packed into the ship
like sardines. When waves or boat wakes wash in during loading
or unloading, all of the boats start rolling and surging into
each other and the steel walls of the ship. You need fenders!
A few scuffs is par for the course.
As for complaints about Dockwise not meeting its ETA's, Clause
9 of the contract provides them with considerable freedom in
this regard. A conversation with the captain of the Super Servant
4 was informative. He said that their number one priority is
to protect their cargo - and sometimes this means slowing the
boat, waiting for weather, or routing the ship around severe
systems. So when the ship arrives late, it probably means that
they were trying to protect your boat!
Dockwise offers travel arrangements through an agent called GMT
that specializes in brokering tickets for merchant seamen. Their
customers often have very fluid schedules, so the tickets that
you get from GMT are fully changeable and fully refundable. On
top of that, the ticket that I got coming back from Brisbane
was cheaper than any of the nonrefundable tickets that I could
find on the internet. Plan on having a flexible schedule.
Overall I would give Dockwise an eight out of ten. I would have
liked it if they had sent me a one-page information sheet on
how to prepare my boat for the voyage. Also, it was sometimes
hard to reach their agents. Furthermore, their agent in Ensenada
was charging obscene amounts of money - $300 U.S. - to prepare
Immigration and Customs clearances. Still, I'd use them again,
and I would recommend them to others. It was a whole lot easier
than sailing back from Australia and it put much less wear and
tear on the boat.
The last leg from Ensenada to Alameda went about as easily as
that trip can go. Making the trip in February and March can be
a good thing, as the northwesterlies tend to be weaker, and you
can sometimes get some nice southerlies. This is what happened
for us. I give most of the credit to Mother Nature for dealing
us a nice hand, but I give a little credit to the crew for recognizing
what we had and playing the hand to maximum advantage.
Eleanor had decided that she didn't want to be aboard on this
trip, so I got Bob Pankonin and Bruce Ladd as volunteer crew
to help me out. I got Bob's name from the Latitude 38
Mexico Crew List, and Bruce was an acquaintance from the past
who I just happened to run into at the right time. There were
some laughable antics with the ship in Ensenada as we played
musical berths with the container ships, but we finally unloaded
only a day behind schedule. To illustrate how great the Dockwise
concept is, it only took us 90 minutes of stowing and securing
once we unloaded from the ship before we were able to get underway
for San Diego.
On March 2, we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, completing
the circle that had begun in September 1999. I was sad that Eleanor
wasn't aboard to share that special moment. By pure coincidence,
it was exactly 15 years to the day that I had taken my first
Basic Keel Boat class from Spinnaker Sailing in Redwood City.
We've put about 20,000 sea miles on Solstice since then,
and have logged a lifetime of adventures.
- jim 05/09/06
We haven't heard from him for awhile, so we can't help but wonder
what Mike Dunn of Lake Tahoe has been up to lately with his MacGregor
26X Zeno's Arrow. After all, he's probably done more wild
adventure cruising with his 26X than even builder Roger MacGregor
might have imagined possible:
"I started sailing my 26X in Baja in '96," he wrote.
"In '97, I trailered her to Puget Sound, then visited the
San Juan Islands, did the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert, and
cruised the coast of Alaska to the Arctic Ocean and Inuvikt in
the Northwest Territories. I then did the Arctic Red River, Norman
Wells, Ft. Hope, Ft. Simpson, Great Slave Lake, Peace River,
Athabaska River, and the Milk and Poplar Rivers. Back in the
States, I took my boat down the Missouri River, the Mississippi
River to New Orleans, then to Florida via the IntraCoastal Waterway.
I then sailed to the Bahamas, the Turks & Caicos, Haiti,
the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgins, and all
down the Leewards and Windwards to Venezuela. I also did Trinidad
and the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers. In July of last year, I returned
to Florida, bought a trailer, and drove my 26X back to Lake Tahoe."
The last we heard, Dunn was planning to take off for Sri Lanka
last November. And we'd be surprised if he didn't do it.
Before you think of trying the same thing, it's worth noting
that Dunn's 26X isn't stock - and neither is he. "My boat
has three four-stroke Nissan outboards, two of them 6 hp, and
one of them 18 hp. She also has a modified keel that was cold-molded
with carbon fiber. The rudder and mounts were modified with aluminum
plate and 20 layers of CBX carbon fiber." Zeno's Arrow
is also more extensively equipped than most sisterships, as she's
equipped with a full-battened furling main and jib, watermaker,
radar, microwave, two 1,000-watt inverters, an EPIRB, a Satphone
with with data capabilities, and two autopilots. She also has
articulating outriggers, an 8-ft Walker Bay dinghy with a 2 hp
outboard, a dodger, bimini, and a 2-kw generator.
As for Dunn, his website reports, "It was once said that
Mike has more degrees than a thermometer, exists in perpetual
puberty, and spends more time practicing for Jeopardy while reaching
closer to Nirvana - or further away, depending on your point
of view - than anyone else." There's more. The site also
advises that Dunn usually works as an expedition and adventure
travel guide, but on his off days is an international management
consultant. The product of schools in California, Hawaii, and
England - including Cambridge University - he's travelled to
pretty much every country, island group, and territory on the
planet. He has led or participated in climbs on the highest mountains
on all seven continents, including Mt. Everest, reached the South
Pole, parachuted over the North Pole, and sailed around the world
as an expedition leader on several different cruise ships. A
skilled scuba diver, hang-glider pilot, whitewater boater, and
fixed wing and helicopter pilot, he sold his share of a small
Antarctic expedition and air charter service to help fund his
own expeditions. His friends call him Slacker. Just kidding about
that. But seriously, does anybody know if he took off for Sri
How about some good news out of Mexico? Enrique Fernandez, who
for many years was the jefe at Marina Cabo San Lucas, tells us
that thanks to President Fox and the Department of Tourism, the
SCT's plans to require all boats over 33 feet to carry costly
Automatic Identification Systems (AIS), and pay a monthly fee
for their operation, have been scrapped. We're told that all
boats will however need EPIRBs - but we very much doubt that
anyone will be checking for them.
The second bit of good news from Fernandez is that Temporary
Import Permits can now be obtained quickly and easily in Cabo
San Lucas. This wasn't true last year, and it caused a few problems.
In addition, we're told that the permits can now be obtained
online - although we don't know of anybody who has been successful
at it so far, in part because you can't apply more than 60 days
before you bring your boat into Mexico. But as long as you can
get the permits in Cabo, it's no problem.
"I can barely type this," writes a despondent Ellen
Sanpere of Cayenne III, "but Pierre and Maria Roelens,
the owners/managers of PR Yacht Services, the boatyard at Marina
Bahia Redonda, were shot and killed this morning. They had been
to the bank, and were followed to the boatyard gate, where several
bullets were fired into the windscreen of their car. Nothing
was taken, and the shooter(s) escaped. Of all the people
to be murdered, Pierre and Maria had helped so many people, both
Venezuelans and visiting cruisers."
Marina Bahia Redonda is one of the largest boatyards in the Puerto
La Cruz area, which is the pleasure boat center of Venezuela.
Pierre had been a resident of Venezuela for 60 years, and was
well-known in the cruising community for starting the Clasico
Regatta in '04 to promote Venezuela's extensive cruising grounds.
Despite oil revenue windfalls, Venezuela suffers from terrible
poverty and crime. Cruisers have been attacked and even murdered,
but mostly on the eastern part of the north coast. It's been
our understanding that the Puerto La Cruz area has always been
considered relatively safe by cruisers. Yes, theft has always
been a problem, but not violent confrontations.
"In mid-March, we returned to our Amel Maramu 53 Notre
Vie, which we'd left in dry storage at Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela,"
report Ken and Nancy Burnap of Santa Cruz. "The boat was
in good shape when we launched her, and after cleaning her up,
we only needed a couple of repairs made. The mechanics at CMO
Marina took care of everything - even making a new part to temporarily
fix the windlass - and they did it on time. We'd ordered a new
windlass from the great guys at Amel, but had it shipped to Bonaire
because of the problems - taxes, theft, corruption - associated
with importing stuff to Venezuela. We caution everyone cruising
the Eastern Caribbean who will need a place in Venezuela or Trinidad
for the summer hurricane season to make reservations early, because
all the marinas fill to capacity. If there's room, we highly
"Venezuela has some truly amazing offshore islands,"
the couple continue. "We don't advise stopping at those
too close to the mainland because of thefts, boardings, and other
acts of piracy. However, we made a beeline for Tortuga the first
night, and the local fishermen came calling with beautiful fresh
fish for sale. The second night, at a more remote anchorage,
we traded a 6-pak of cold beer for a lobster. Then we continued
to the Los Roques, an amazing archipelago that is also a Venezuelan
National Park. There are so many islands, such great reefs, and
so many blue holes to snorkel! We also stopped at Los Aves, anchoring
100 feet from the mangroves, and spent our days being entertained
by pelicans, swifts, terns, and boobies. Next it was westward
ho! to Bonaire, where we snorkeled in crystal waters and ate
at great restaurants every night. That left us with a 400-mile
windward trip to Puerto Rico.
"We got a good weather window," Ken and Nancy continue,
"and arrived at Vieques four days, three nights, and two
dorado later. The eastern end of Vieques was long used by the
U.S. military for bombing and strafing practice, but now they
are cleaning it up and clearing out. Some of the beaches are
now open at certain times, others aren't open at all. After learning
the rules, we headed to Bahia de la Chiva, where I swam ashore.
I must say that I felt a little strange, for we hadn't officially
checked in. Nonetheless, it felt good to be back in America.
We were amazed by Puerto Rico and her 'Spanish' Virgin Islands
- America has a jewel in this Spanish-speaking commonwealth.
The small islands are a delight for cruising and snorkeling,
and Puerto Rico, with everything from rainforests to colonial
cities, is fascinating. We're now in San Juan, which is great
during the day and at night, and where we're enjoying an amazing
new restaurant every night. We love the brightly-colored houses
with balconies, old forts, museums, fun shopping, free street
music at night, clubs, bars - and, of course, the food. The only
bad thing about San Juan and Puerto Rico was that we didn't check
the prices for mooring at San Juan Bay Marina until we left.
It wasn't a nice place at all, as you moor your boat between
two cement posts, one leaning one way, the other leaning the
other way. In addition, there was trash everywhere and the bathrooms
were dirty. For this they wanted $100/day! Had we known the price
in advance, we would have anchored out or visited San Juan from
the east or south by bus or rental car. We'd paid $50/day at
Puerto del Rey Marina on the east coast, and thought that had
been expensive - but at least they had TV and cable, golf carts
to take you to and from your boat, and it was a very classy place."
"We've finally made it to the island of Kos, Greece, and
can now see Turkey 20 miles in the distance," report Doug
and Judy Decker of the San Diego-based Beneteau 37.5 Limerance.
"We're a long way from San Diego, where we started our long
cruise with the Ha-Ha in 2000. We passed through the Corinth
Canal about 10 days ago. It cost us 147 euros (about $180 U.S.)
for our 37-ft boat. Ours is a smaller - but elegant - cruising
yacht, and we particularly love her smaller size when we're entering
ancient and dinky ports in France and Italy."
Having been through the Corinth Canal with our Big O some
10 years ago, we remembered that the bridge that crosses the
canal, at least on the Corinth end, sank beneath the surface
- rather than lifting or turning - so vessels could pass over
and enter the canal. This seems such an odd way of doing things,
that after a few years we began to doubt our memory. So we asked
the Deckers to check for us.
"The bridges - there are two, in fact, do sink down into
the canal, permitting vessels to enter the canal by crossing
over the top," they report. "There are huge overhead
bridges, but there is plenty of clearance beneath them.
"By the way, we are making progress on the cruising tax
issue. (See the Decker's letter in this month's Letters.)
We had meetings in Athens for five days with officials from the
Ministry of Tourism and the American Embassy. The Tourism Ministry
delivered a packet of legal documents to the Ministry of Merchant
Marine. We know of many other foreign boatowners who have also
been caught in this tax trap, and we think our efforts will eventually
make a difference for non-European Union boats. Today, your 21.6
Big O would be assessed 14.67 euros times three months for a
whopping 952 euros - plus 19% VAT - for a grand total of of $1,132
euros - or $1,471 U.S. Inflation strikes! If you stay over 91
days, you are then liable for a three-month cruising tax!"
For a country so dependent on tourism dollars, you'd think the
Greeks would try to please rather than punish visitors.
"After leaving my boat on a mooring at Bahia del Sol, El
Salvador, for the summer, we took the bus 2,800 miles - with
several stops along the way - to Guatemala, Chiapas, Mexico City,
Guanajuato, Durango, Mazatlan, and Guaymas," report Terry
Bingham and Tammy Woodmansee of the Eagle Harbor, Washington-based
Union 36 Secret O' Life. "Upon arrival at Marina
Seca, which is where we'd launched the boat in October, we found
my VW van dirty but in fine shape. Before heading up to Nogales
and the border, we stopped by the downtown site of Singlar's
new marina, which was only in the planning stages last fall.
I'm happy to report that Singlar has been busy - and obviously
spending money - since all the fill is in place, the bulkheads
are 90% constructed, a lot of the malecon is finished, and several
buildings - including what we're told will be a hotel - are under
construction. They will have space for a number of boats in their
marina by fall. So it does appear that Mexico is committed to
a number of their previously-announced Escalera Nautica - 'nautical
stairway' - projects. By the way, we love Guaymas because it's
a real Mexican coastal city without the hoot and splash - and
expense - of a San Carlos. Guaymas also has great provisioning,
as there is a good-sized Ley supermercado and a new Soriana.
When we headed south from Guaymas last fall, we stuck to the
mainland coast and visited Topolobampo before heading to Mazatlan.
It was a great trip compared to crossing the Sea of Cortez twice
to get to Mazatlan, which is what most cruisers do."
When the Escalera Nautica was first announced, we at Latitude
criticized it for making no fiscal sense, for the planners had
overestimated the number of Americans who would want to bring
their boats to Mexico each year by a factor of about 10, and
for proposing to build marinas and/or marina facilities in areas
where they weren't needed or wanted. We don't know if Singlar
- which is part of the government tourist development agency
FONATUR - ran out of money or rethought their misguided plans
after they were also slammed by the Packard Foundation, but they
drastically trimmed their overly ambitious plans to something
that might be semi-sensible. The result is that the concept of
a 'staircase of marinas' down the Pacific Coast of Baja is toast.
Singlar did build a breakwater at Santa Rosaliíta, about
40% of the way to Cabo from San Diego, but it's far from the
rhumbline, where no marina was wanted or needed. As a result,
there won't be a single 'step' in the 'staircase' between Ensenada
and Cabo! What Singlar is going ahead with at full speed are
facilities at 10 other places, almost all of which already have
developed marine facilities: San Felipe, Puerto Peñasco,
Santos Coronados, Guaymas, Puerto Escondido, Topolobampo, La
Paz, Mazatlan, and San Blas. There will only be a total of 208
berths at the 10 facilities, as well as 117 moorings at Puerto
Escondido. But there will also be hundreds more dry storage spots.
We call the plan "semi-sensible" because we can't figure
out why the Mexican government - particularly under President
Vicente Fox's watch - wants to go into competition with private
marinas and boatyards. Anyway, more on this subject in The
Blog of the Sea of Cortez, Part II, to be found elsewhere
in this issue.
Speaking of the presidency of Mexico, there is going to be a
historic election on July 2. Although there are three candidates
with significant support, it's going down to the wire between
two candidates who are offering the voters very different visions
of how the country can achieve a brighter future. The avowed
leftist is Andres Lopez Obrador, a charismatic populist who was
previously the mayor of Mexico City. He lives a spartan life
and clearly cares for the poor - but has nonetheless really spooked
some people by having messianic fantasies, displaying something
of an authoritarian streak, and a hot temper. The center-right
candidate is Felix Calderon, a more staid Harvard-educated advocate
of free trade and the need for foreign investment. If elected,
Obrador would seem to have the potential to be either a much
better - or a very much worse - president than Calderon, depending
on who he really is. Most experts feel that even if Obrador does
win and starts talking some Hugo Chavez-type trash to the U.S.,
it will only be just talk. To do anything more would be political
suicide for three reasons: 1) The $20 billion in remittances
that Mexicans in the United States send to Mexico each year is
Mexico's greatest source of revenue; 2) More than half of the
foreign investment in Mexico comes from the U.S.; and, 3) 88%
of Mexico's exports go to the U.S. The good news is that although
Mexico is a very young democracy, it seems to be much more stable
than before. As such, most experts expect that the populace will
accept the results of the election. The new president doesn't
take office until January 1, but when he does, let's hope he
raises the $4.50/day minimum wage, reduces corruption, and continues
to grow the middle class.
While Obrador and Calderon disagree on almost everything, there
is an exception - a road and rail 'dry canal' to be built across
the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. If boats could then be put on trucks,
it would shorten a California to Florida trip by several thousand
miles. It's not a new idea, having first been proposed by Porfirio
Diaz some 100 years ago.
The good news is that the Mexican Congress has passed legislation
that has made the much-welcomed changes in 'domestic clearing'
procedures law. If you remember, Congress had spent four years
trying to change the law to make it easier to clear within the
country, and came close a couple of times. Alas, each time the
legislation was defeated at the last minute by special interest
groups who stood to lose all that money cruisers were having
to fork over in absurd fees. Then in April of last year, President
Fox circumvented the special interest groups by issuing a reglemento
- sort of like a decree - to institute the changes. A reglemento
was enough to put the changes in place, but would have been relatively
easy to reverse. That's why Tere Grossman, president of the Mexican
Marina Owners Association, is so happy that the changes are now
part of Mexican law, as it would likely take years to change
the law again. The folks at the SCT Ministry in Mexico City have
also informed Grossman that it's only going to be a matter of
weeks before mariners will be able to pay for their clearing
into the country fees at Isla Mujeres, which should finally eliminate
the need for anyone to have to use a ship's agent there. Mariners
previously had to use an agent because there was no military
bank on the island to accept the fees."
And, Mexico has made another significant step in the right direction.
The federal branch of the Mexican government, under the leadership
of President Fox, is picking up the $18 million tab for eliminating
the soot that emanates from the powerplant just outside of La
Paz. In certain wind conditions, a little soot falls on boats
in the nearby Costa Baja Marina, and if there is enough wind
from the wrong direction, the soot gets into the respiratory
systems of the residents of La Paz. The project should be completed
by the November start of the cruising season.
"Shortly after the Strictly Sail Boat Show in Oakland, Ramona
and I returned to Fiji to get our boat out of her Vuda Point
Marina cyclone season hurricane hole," reports Jan Miller
of the Northern California-based Odyssey 30 Jatimo. By
'hole', they mean just that. When boats are hauled for the tropical
cyclone season, a hole is dug in the ground for the boat's keel,
to ensure that hurricane-force winds can't knock the boat over.
"After getting Jatimo ready for sea, we cruised the
Yasawa Islands, which are 35 miles to the northwest of Lautoka,
Viti Levu, in anticipation of sailing to Vanuatu sometime in
July. We've been out here for two years now, having left Santa
Cruz in April of '04. We arrived in Fiji via Hawaii, Fanning,
Christmas, Penrhyn, Suwarrow, American Samoa, Western Samoa,
Tonga, New Zealand, Fiji, Musket Cove, and Vuda Point."
We remember Miller from about 20 years ago when he was in Mexico
and the engine went out on his Odyssey 30. Having no real options,
he singlehanded the Baja Bash. As we recall, it took him almost
exactly one month.
When most grandfathers think of sailling, they dream of warm
tropical breezes, and maybe even the chance to see a few lovely
ladies in bikinis. Not Gary Ramos of the Folkes 39 Arctic
Wanderer, who may or may not be from Sebastapol. He left
Seward, Alaska, in May of last year on what he hopes will be
the first singlehanded circumnavigation of the North Pole. It's
such a long, cold, and lonely trip, that even if he's not thwarted
by the Russians or ice, he won't complete the adventure until
October of next year. God, it makes us shiver just thinking about
While we're on the subject of unusual cruising itineraries, check
out Jean-François Diné's From the Orinoco to
the Amazon, On a 10-Meter Sailboat. A onetime gendarme on
a five-year sabbatical - can you tell he's French? - Diné
and his wife Claudette left France with $10,000 and no sailing
experience. While in Africa, they became intrigued with a map
of northeast South America that seemed to indicate that there
might be a way to take their boat up the mighty Orinoco River,
and then going farther inland connect with the Rio Negro, a tributary
of the even mightier Amazon River. It took some overland work
a la Tristan Jones, but they made it. If you think you know about
inland boating because you've been up to the Delta a couple of
times, read this book!
The argument for alcohol. "It's been scientifically proven
that if we drink one quart of water each day, by the end of the
year we'll have absorbed more than 2.2 pounds of E. coli bacteria
found in feces," writes an anonymous cruiser. "In other
words, by drinking water, we're consuming two pounds of shit
per year. We won't run that risk, however, if we stick to rum,
vodka, gin, whiskey, beer, or other alcoholic beverages. That's
because alcohol has to go through a distillation process of boiling,
filtering, and fermenting. And alcohol itself kills bacteria.
So in the long run, it's better to drink only rum and talk shit,
rather than drink water and be full of shit." We'll have
a Mt. Gay and tonic - but hold the E. coli-carrying ice.
Cruising quiz. How many gallons of freshwater flow from the locks
and down to the sea each time a vessel makes a transit of the
Panama Canal? You'll find the answer several paragraphs below.
By the way, the Canal expansion we reported on two months ago
- which calls for a much wider third set of locks for post-Panamax
ships with up to 160 feet of beam - is not a done deal yet. Because
Panama has so few people - less than three million - and because
the expense would be so monumental - about $7 billion - the project
will have to be approved by referendum. But current polls indicate
that the Panamanians - who despite all that messy business with
Noreiga are very pro-American - support the Canal expansion by
a wide margin. Rather than an expensive third lane, this minority
would prefer the creation of mega ports at each end of the Canal,
and would have a fleet of smaller ships shuttling all the cargo
through the Canal to bigger ships at each end. Talk about inefficiency!
For what it's worth, the Canal is now operating at 94% of capacity,
and is thus just one more bit of international infrastructure
that isn't ready for the future.
Speaking of Panama, one of our sources there reports that the
owners of Nautipesca, one of Panama's largest marine retailers,
with stores downtown and at Flamenco Marina, has been shut down.
According to the source, the retailer had to close because the
Panamanian and Colombian owners had been arrested for smuggling
drugs with their boats - and a submarine.
Back in 1984, we pulled off to the side of the road in Tiburon
to pick up a hitchiker, who turned out to be Danny North, son
of North Sails founder Lowell North. Man, does Danny seem to
get around! Here's his most recent report:
My girlfriend Kaja and I are both in Maine, where she is finishing
her degree in music and voice, and I'm seeking a captain's position
after a winter spent surfing and working on old cars and boats
in San Diego. Our 38-ft cat Deva, which is a modified
Robin Chamberlin design that was built by OSTAC in Australia
in 1982, has been laid up on the hard at Brian Stevens' excellent
small boatyard, Cabedelo Nautica, north of Recife, Brazil, since
August '04. That's when Kaja and I took the job of delivering
a new Brazilian-built Dolphin 46 cat from Salvador to the Annapolis
Boat Show. After that exciting trip, Kaja settled down to school
while I flew to Greece to relieve the longtime skipper of Tangaroa,
an Italian-owned Swan 65. Many happy days and thousands of miles
under the keel later, I handed the boat back to Martin in Brazil
last May. After a bit more work on Deva, I returned to San Diego.
And now I'm in Maine looking for work. My dad just bought the
J/105 Triple Play with San Diego YC partners Larry Boline
and Blair Francis with an eye toward the J/105 North Americans
in Marina del Rey next summer."
Sometimes we get interesting mail, but don't have any idea who
wrote it. Here's one such specimen that seemed to be fueled by
a lot of passion: "I spent my freshman year - '04-'05 -
sailing some 7,000 miles to eight countries. During that time
I made incredible friendships and discovered places that, until
then, had only existed in books. It helped me realize that I
had been caged all my life, that in fact we all have been caged,
and that it took something as drastic as that to make me realize
it. My voyage opened me up to a better way of living - it set
me free. The fence in my backyard reminded me of the routine
life I'd been living, where everything was the same, just living
weekend to weekend. When the fence fell down, it represented
my release. As we prepare to rebuild it, I realize that I will
have begun rebuilding my stagnant life. I will fall back in the
routine before I went sailing, and forget all that I have learned
along the way."
Snorkel Free Or Die! With June's designation of the Northwestern
Hawaiian Islands, George Bush, the so-called "anti-environment"
President, proposed the largest protected marine reserve in the
world. And in the process, he revived our inclinations toward
civil disobedience. The area in question is between Hawaii and
Midway Atoll, which at 1,400 miles in length and 100 miles in
width, is larger than the state of Montana. The Northwestern
Hawaiian Islands is home to almost 7,000 marine species, about
25% of which can't be found anywhere else in the world. If Bush's
plan is approved - the final approval may take a year - fishing
should be eliminated in the region within five years. So what's
our problem? Under the proposal, visitors - of which there are
about three a year except for Midway itself (which is already
administered in a heavy-handed manner) - wishing to engage in
such benign activities as taking photographs or snorkeling would
be required to get a permit. We say bullshit to that! We're citizens
of the United States, so that resource belongs to us. Unless
activities seemingly as benign as taking photographs or snorkeling
can somehow be clearly demonstrated too harmful to the resource,
we'll feel free and justified in engaging in them without a permit.
And good luck to the government in catching us.
What's your take on the issue?
Eclipse, the 34-ft cat that was designed, built, and sailed
tens of thousands of ocean miles by Brit Richard Woods before
being abandoned in heavy weather in the Gulf of Tehuantepec months
ago, was towed into Panama yesterday, reports John Haste of the
San Diego-based Perry 52 cat Little Wing. Eclipse
had been found far out into the Pacific about six weeks ago,
stripped and covered in bird poop. Woods turned down an offer
of salvage because it was too expensive. He's spending the summer
in British Columbia building a 20-ft powercat, having already
bought a 25-ft Merlin sailing cat - one of his designs - for
racing and cruising in the area.
Haste also reports that the old schooner Ranger, which
had been a fixture in Puerto Vallarta, sank while on the hook
at Panama during a particularly heavy south swell. Her owner
then contracted to have her refloated. It took 150 barrels and
four days. As for Haste's cat Little Wing, she's just
fine, thank you.
George Benson, who cruised the entire coast of California aboard
his modified Coronado 25 Teal, has published his north
of the Golden Gate Guide Book titled Cruising the Northwest
Coast, From the Golden Gate to Port Angeles - An Aid to Near
Shore Cruising Along the Northwest Coast of the United States.
The book features 125 photos. Impressed by his achievements on
a small budget with a small boat, we featured Benson in the May
issue Changes. If you can't find the book at any of the
normal sources, .
Dave (K1BGD) aboard Carlota - boat type and hailing port
unknown - has some advice for our readers:
"If you see a guy wearing a green T-shirt with 'Help, I've
Started Talking And Can't Shut Up' written across the front,
be sure to go over and meet the wearer, who I guarantee to be
a fountain of information on cruising the Pacific Coast of Mexico.
More important, the person wearing the shirt would love to tell
you all about it. The green T-shirts started as a joke by radio
hams more than a decade ago, and they are awarded to those hams
who have not only been very active on the Mexican ham nets, but
also have done that extra bit to provide services for their fellow
cruisers and local communities.
"This year's recipient, Patrick Malone (KF6GSD), is a great
example. He and his wife Alicia (KF6GSE), started their most
recent Mexican cruise in '97, and soon settled in at Puerto Lopez
Mateos, which is in the upper reaches of Mag Bay. As well as
being Net Manager of the Southbound Net for several years, Patrick
was kept busy providing assistance to cruisers passing through
the Mag Bay area. He also compiled weather forecasts and provided
them to the various nets during that period before Don Anderson
established his shore station. In addition, Patrick and Alicia
were instrumental in setting up a medical clinic in Lopez Mateos
that allows the Flying Samaritans to service several hundred
patients during their monthly visits. Among the Malone's latest
projects is providing wireless internet service for the entire
community. Right now it reaches down to the harbor, and is another
reason for making a trip up the Bay, a trip made much easier
by their excellent sketch charts of the passage from San Carlos
to Lopez Mateos. Well into their second decade, the Green Tee
continues to symbolize the active ham community here in mañanaland."
While covering a West Marina Pacific Cup in Hawaii about 15 years
ago, we picked up a souvenir t-shirt that we really liked. It
honored 'The Old Kau-Kau Man', who tended to be a withered and
skinny guy of Asian decent who used to walk around with a branch
across the back of his shoulders, from which hung the basic contents
of an entire hardware store. It's a Hawaiian tradition that's
no doubt long gone in this age of Costco. But we were reminded
of a few months ago in Mexico, when a pick-up truck that seemed
to be the Mexican version of the 'Kau-Kau man' pulled up near
where we were standing. The truck
was loaded down with all the household essentials. "Hmmmm,"
said Capt. Doña, "I could use a couple of buckets."
And before a few minutes had passed, she'd purchased them. The
business traditions of Mexico can seem surprising to Americans.
For example, when you're having breakfast at a restaurant, it's
not at all unusual for a vendor of sliced mangos on a stick or
baked goods to walk up to your table and try to sell you some.
If any vendors tried that at McDonalds or Starbucks, they'd be
escorted out immediately.
Answer to the Cruising Quiz: According to the folks who run the
Panama Canal, it takes 52 million gallons of freshwater for any
vessel - even a little 25-footer - to make a Canal transit. Which
is why, of course, nobody should complain about the rain in Panama.
For without the heavy rainfall, the Canal couldn't function.
If the massive new Canal locks are approved, they will require
a special system to recover some of the water used in each transit.