With reports this month from
Breta on a thrifty and social five-year
circumnavigation; from Northern Exposure
on the first half of a trip up the Inside Passage; Paradise
on Playa Panama, Costa Rica; from Starchaser
on how little the Sea of Cortez has changed; from Morgan
Lynn on wild times in Central America; from Coastbuster
on an unsatisfactory haulout in Mazatlan; from Speck
on the many travels of Irwin Studenberg; from Tucumcari
on 'Manta Rock'; and Cruise Notes.
Breta - Columbia 34
Back in 1993 - after a tough six-day offshore run from San Diego
to Cabo San Lucas - I signed in for Latitude's then 'Some
Like it Hot Rally'. In so doing, I got a now-famous bright hot
pink t-shirt with a green jalapeno pepper on the back. But when
the 'Some Like it Hot' list appeared in the next issue of the
magazine, I'd found that I'd been dubbed 'Lonesome Roy'.
"The nerve!" I thought to myself. "Do they even
know me? That's defamation!" Sure, I was singlehanding my
old Columbia 34 Breta at the time, and sure, it would
have been nice to have the right partner along, but I was doing
fine. So I let it go.
Now, having covered 31,700 ocean miles and visited 35 countries,
'Lonesome Roy' and old Breta are back. I finished the
trip as I began it, singlehanded. But while enroute I had a total
of 17 crewmembers, all of them vegetarians - and all of them
female. Cynthia, a Dutch girl, even lasted through the whole
ugly Red Sea leg from Sri Lanka up to Israel - and that 4,400
miles took 147 days. Susanne, a Swedish girl, did the Atlantic
and the Caribbean with me, which was 3,400 miles and 109 days.
Maus, my cat, accompanied me all the way around.
By the way, I kept an exact record of all my expenses during
my circumnavigation. In the four years, nine months and nine
days it took me from Puerto Vallarta to Puerto Vallarta, I spent
an average of $14.66 a day. That's $445 a month, $5,350 a year,
or a total of $25,300. I had budgeted $20 day, so I came out
way ahead. Those numbers include every single expenditure. I
did two bottom jobs, one in New Zealand and one in Thailand.
I had no major breakdowns and didn't fly home.
Now I have a bigger and better boat - a LaFitte 44 - and am presently
preparing to head out for a second circumnavigation. I'm still
single and again looking for veggie crew - but this time I demand
that you come up with a more appropriate name!
- roy 6/22/00
Roy - Relying on various businesses
in Cabo to keep an accurate list of cruising boats and cruiser
names has always been an exercise in extreme futility. We apologize
for the nickname somebody bestowed on you. But how's this for
a better one: 'Roy the Ramblin' Romantic'? After all, 17 women
during one circumnavigation may be some kind of record. Readers
- probably male - who want to know how this came about, should
tune into next month's Changes.
Exposure - Landfall 39
The Inside Passage To Alaska
On my last road trip to Alaska in '97, I took the ferry down
the coast - and decided that one day I had to return on my own
boat. So in '99, I purchased Northern Exposure, with the
intent of spending the summer on the Inside Passage. The trip
from San Francisco to Seattle took four days - on a truck - and
was much easier than the sail would have been. So far the trip
has been more than I ever imagined, with almost every experience
being a positive one. Some of the highlights have been:
Learning to time passages to take into account tides and currents
unlike anything I've ever seen. All along the British Columbia
coast there are tidal rapids that must be transited at slack
water, or you'll subject your boat to what the charts call "violent
eddies and whirlpools - extreme turbulence." If you don't
pay attention, current of up to 11 knots will make a believer
of you. It only took one miscalculation for me to double-check
the slack water at each rapid.
There are only three open water passages along the approximately
600-mile Inside Passage from Comox, British Columbia, to Skagway,
Alaska. The first is Queen Charlotte Sound. After finding crew
and charts in Port Hardy, we waited three days for a storm front
to pass through - and were then rewarded with an outstanding
30-mile crossing. We left God's Pocket at around 0515, and after
we cleared Hope Island, there was nothing between us and Japan
except Hawaii - and a large expanse of restless ocean. Fortunately,
the seas were calm and there was only a lazy swell on the beam
to rock the boat from side to side.
About half way to Cape Caution - where we would once again be
sheltered - we noticed a large area of white water that seemed
to be moving our way. It wasn't long before we could see that
it was hundreds of dolphins charging at us like a herd of stampeding
horses, with individual ones frequently jumping clear of the
water and landing with a huge splash. They were on us in what
seemed like moments, and suddenly surrounded us. I figure there
were a couple of hundred of them jumping, cartwheeling, and generally
seeming to be having a good time. At any one time, there were
at least 10 of them playfully cavorting in our bow wave, and
they seemed genuinely interested in checking us out. Several
times while standing on the very end of the bowsprit, I had direct
eye to eye contact with one of them, and there was something
almost magical about the connection. After about 15 minutes,
they suddenly decided they'd had enough fun - and headed west
en masse. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
The people along the way have also been fantastic. We spent time
at Rivers Inlet after meeting some folks living at the end of
a remote sound. They stopped by our isolated anchorage to give
us a 25-pound ling cod, and invited us to visit them the next
day. Their house is built on a log float using logs that must
be at least six feet in diameter. There is also a 20 by 50-foot
shop on another float, and three tugs were tied up around the
floats. These folks made a living collecting logs off the beach
and selling them to a lumber company that comes around with a
huge self-loading barge. Their house is at the end of a long
inlet, guarded by uncharted rocks. They chose the spot because
it had plenty of water coming from the waterfall out back.
Their place is totally protected from the wind and sea, and so
isolated that their only neighbors are wild animals. There is
a bear path along the shore, and a grizzly family pays regular
visits within 50 feet of their house. Whales hang out in the
bay, and their are a couple of semi-tame ravens that live nearby.
An otter lives under their house, crabs are caught right off
the edge of their float, and they threw rock fish into the water
to feed a Bald Eagle that spends a lot of time sitting in a nearby
tree. Before the fish had even hit the water, the bald eagle
was on the hunt. He crash dove toward the fish, pulling up at
the last moment with the fish in the grasp of his razor sharp
The downside is that all their supplies must be ordered by radio,
and then delivered by a once-a-month freight boat from Vancouver
that makes stops along the way. This is 'extreme houseboating'
if you ask me.
The Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club - at Prince Rupert, which
is about halfway between Seattle and Skagway - welcomes all cruising
boats. We had so much fun there that we spent a week. The locals
were great. One guy loaned me his truck so we could drive around
and see the area, and several times one of the gals from the
office took us out for a night on the town. All the needed services
were only a short walk from the club. When we got hungry, we
could lower a crab pot off the club dock. We pulled up as many
as 13 at a time!
The seafood along the Inside Passage is plentiful and easy to
catch, so we had many feasts of crab, salmon, snapper, halibut,
clams, and oysters. We also saw incredible amounts of sea and
wildlife, including humpback and killer whales, black and grizzly
bears, dolphins, bald eagles, otters, and seals. The bears seem
particularly numerous. Even as I write this, there is one just
100 yards away grazing on the shore.
When we crossed the Canadian-U.S. border just north of Prince
Rupert, Katie, one of the crew, thought there should be some
sort of welcoming committee with banners, balloons, and music.
But there wasn't even a line painted on the water such as the
chart indicates there should be. But sometimes you have to be
careful what you ask for, as just an hour later we were greeted
by a welcoming committee in the form of the United States Coast
Guard. Over the VHF, I was asked lots of questions about the
boat and the crew, as well as our last port and destination.
We were then advised to maintain our course and speed, and prepare
for a boarding party.
A rigid-hull inflatable with three armed men pulled alongside,
and in short order two of them were aboard. All of us were asked
to produce identification, so I provided a driver's licence while
Anthony and Katie - the crew I took on in Port Hardy - had passports
from Australia and the UK. Since I had already called Customs
and Immigration and advised them of my crew and arrival date,
I had no problems on that front. The Coast Guard conducted a
full inspection of my boat, found no violations, and were on
their way in about 30 minutes. The officers were very professional
and courteous - a big departure from past experiences. Thank
During the trip, I used The Cap'n navigation system - and found
that it worked flawlessly. I highly recommend an electronic charting
system to supplement the paper charts, as it makes life so much
As we continued on, we sometimes began to lose some of our awe
of Nature. As majestic as bald eagles are, for instance, there
are so many of them they can be real pests! While I was in Port
Hardy looking for crew, for example, a bald eagle took up residence
on my windpoint and windspeed indicator. Unfortunately, it wasn't
structurally up to the task of supporting him - so it broke.
I decided not to repair it until the day I was leaving, since
after leaving the pointer hanging by the wires, he took up roosting
on the spreaders. And if you think seagull shit is nasty, wait
until you see what a bald eagle leaves behind.
We've seen very few bugs, but our one bad experience was a whopper.
The day before we crossed the border, we discovered biting black
flies at Dundas Island. They chew a little hole in your skin,
and then lap up the blood that flows. That evening, we were forced
into the cabin to escape them. The following morning when I stuck
my head out the hatch, I instantly discovered that all the black
flies were there waiting for breakfast. In fact, it seems they'd
invited all their relatives over to join the feast. We put on
long-sleeve shirts, pants, gloves, hats, glasses and repellant,
and went out to do battle with the little buggers while I weighed
the anchor. That morning was the fastest I ever raised the anchor.
The flies left angry red welts that took more than a week to
Going aground was also a new experience for me. We were up Toba
Inlet and hadn't seen another boat for days - when suddenly the
bottom came up faster than I could react. We were instantly stuck,
and no amount of kedging, main engine thrust or tugging with
the 25-hp inflatable could get us off. Soon, all the boat's handholds
were in the wrong place. Moving around the boat required well-planned
choreography. When the boat's sole is at a 45° angle, you
find yourself walking on the sides of cabinets and bulkheads.
Adding to the fun was the fact that the angle caused an old fishing
rod to hold the bilge pump switch in the 'on' position just when
we needed it the least. The tide went out so far that at one
point we were 150 feet on dry land! But about six hours later
we were on our way again, with no damage except to my ego.
So far we haven't had much sailing, as what little wind we've
had has mostly been on the nose. As such, I don't think we've
had the sails up for more than 20 hours the whole trip.
From Ketchikan we'll continue north and try to get into Glacier
Bay - although I hear it's booked solid for the summer. Even
if we don't get in, there are still hundreds of places to explore
and I have a couple of months to enjoy them. Come fall, I will
probably look for a place to leave the boat and return home for
awhile. I highly recommend this trip to everyone who is even
- jeff 7/00
Paradise - N/A
Sid & Manuela Olshefski
Playa Panama, Costa Rica
We have a 'must stop' for Latitude readers: Playa Panama
in Bahia de Culebra - which is in the Gulf of Papagayo in northern
Costa Rica. Since it's one of the most spacious natural harbors
in central America, Bahia de Culebra - named after all the snakes
in the area - offers an excellent anchorage for vessels of all
There are two popular anchorages in the three by five-mile bay,
both with beach access. Our favorite is the one off Playa Panama,
just a short distance to the east of Punta Buena, where the rocky
shore gives way to the hard, sandy beach. Once ashore, you'll
find a hotel, restaurant, bar, and tourist office on an otherwise
very remote beach. We spent almost two months anchored in the
very calm and protected waters here.
The Costa Cangrejo restaurant, hidden behind some palms and tamarind
trees, was opened about a year ago by Hiram and China. It's a
great place to hang out, and the owners do everything they can
to accommodate cruisers. In addition to serving delicious food
and ice-cold beer, they will also sell ice, beer, sodas and milk.
Each Monday at 11:00 am., the produce truck comes by to sell
the freshest vegetables. On Mondays and Thursdays, Hans from
the German Bakery swings by with delicious desserts and breads
right out of his wood oven.
Hiram and China have a washer and dryer they make available,
and offer telephone and email service. They also have cold showers,
and believe us, you wouldn't want a hot shower down here. For
cruisers who can't live without it, the bar even has cable television.
Hiram also does fuel and propane runs for cruisers.
Unlike many anchorages in Costa Rica that are subject to petty
theft, the one off Playa Panama seems pretty secure. As such,
it's a great place to leave your boat while travelling inland.
Hiram got us a good deal on a Honda from Budget: for $25 a day
with the seventh day free. Hiram and China were so pleased when
six cruising boats were anchored off their restaurant they offered
to take us on a two-day trip through northern Costa Rica. It
was wonderful! Volcan Arenal was one of the best stops, as you
can see the glowing lava rocks tumble down the steep walls. Hiram
had so much fun that he says he's going to do it again for other
groups of cruisers.
There's a daily bus that makes the one-hour trip to Liberia,
the nearest city. You can do most provisioning there and find
many common parts. Playa Coco is just a few miles to the south,
but is only accessible after hitch-hiking to the main road to
catch a bus. But it's easy. Checking in at Playa Coco is easy
- although the Port Captain won't let females do it. He tells
them to get their husbands.
Hiram and China do such a good job of spoiling cruisers that
on June 12 the crews of our boat as well as Breathless, Dreamer,
Four Winds, High Drama, Kestrel, La Roja, Mimosa and Paradise
declared Costa Cangrejo to be the Costa Cangrejo Cruising Club
- and presented China and Hiram their own burgee. They were very
honored and are looking forward to more cruising boats stopping
in the near future.
This was also the site of a wonderful buffet for my 40th birthday.
- manuela 6/15/00
Starchaser - DownEast 45
Sea of Cortez
The last time I visited the Sea of Cortez was aboard my Islander
36 in 1995. I covered pretty much the same ground on this trip,
but at age 81 things are a little different. For one thing, my
grandchildren are running the show. Nonetheless, the thrill of
seeing the wonderful marine life and beautiful scenery of the
Sea of Cortez has been just as great this time as it was the
The thing that strikes me is how the Sea of Cortez seems to have
existed in a time warp. I have examples from all along our cruise.
La Paz was still very much the same five years later, despite
the rumors of boat inspections. The service at Marina de La Paz
was similarly as good as ever. La Partida, the anchorage between
Isla Partida and Espiritu Santo about 25 miles from La Paz, was
beautiful, serene, and didn't look any different than it had
in '95. The sea lions still frolic at nearby Los Islotes, and
the beaches just to the north at Isla San Francisquito's are
as white and clean as ever. The Evaristo anchorage had its usual
collection of long term cruisers enjoying the good life, and
the small tienda at the north end of the bay had a few staples
to replenish the larder. You never can have too many onions when
cruising in Mexico.
The anchorage at Los Gatos, backed by the red cliffs, was almost
empty - except for Manuel, who showed up on schedule at 10 a.m.
to take our order for six live lobsters. He was back with a full
order ready for boiling at 5 p.m. And the price was the same
as it was back in '95.
Recent reports I'd gotten out of the Sea have suggested that
it was 'going dead' - but that's not what we found. As we travelled
between the islands, for instance, we encountered wave after
wave of sea life such as I'd never seen before. We saw common
dolphins by the thousand, followed by waves of what we believe
were pilot whales. Furthermore, the cruisers we met said they
threw back as many fish as they kept. When we were hungry for
fish, there was plenty to be had from the fishermen. All we had
to do was meet them on the beach when they came in at the end
of the day. They were even happy to fillet the fish they sold
to us. Sometimes other cruisers shared their catch with us.
In a relatively minor change, Agua Verde seemed busier than before,
as more local fishermen seemed to be basing out of there. This
resulted in one convenience: a fish truck with ice on the beach.
Since our ice supply was running low, we asked to buy some. They
refused, giving us all we wanted. They did, however, accept a
few packs of smokes in trade.
As we continued north to Puerto Escondido, I found the ruins
of the never-completed hotel were unchanged. The hotel's only
residents, the dogs, still howl at night. They've gotten organized
enough at Puerto Escondido - the first real settlement north
of La Paz - to get fresh spring water flowing down to the same
old hose bib to the side of the quay. There were fewer long term
residents at Escondido than I remembered from before, but at
least there was one long-term resident with the proper parts
to repair a leak in the water cooler of our Perkins 4-236.
The Tripui mobile home park at Puerto Escondido is still active,
and features a small store, pool, and cafe. The telephone costs
are unreasonable, however, so it's better to wait until you get
to Loreto where, with a phone card, you can call the States for
about $1/minute. While Puerto Escondido is the first settlement
north of La Paz, Loreto - another 20 miles to the north - is
the first real town. As such, cruisers often want to travel between
the two. It's best to catch a ride with a cruiser who has a car,
because the Loreto taxi drivers are now trying to get $20 a person
- each way!
Honeymoon Cove, just three miles from Puerto Escondido, and Puerto
Ballandra on Isla Carmen, are still popular with cruisers. But
I could see no changes at either - other than that there were
more larger cruising boats - 40 to 50 feet - being sailed by
men 60 to 70 years of age. I met one singlehander who was cruising
aboard an Islander 36, a sistership to the boat I used on my
first cruise in the Sea of Cortez. We talked a lot, and he claimed
to be 63 years of age - but I think he was really closer to my
81! When I asked where he was from, he replied, "The Sea
of Cortez" - and said he intended to be there a long time.
I'd taken my Icom ham radio off my Islander when I installed
it and had it installed on the DownEast - but hadn't been able
to get it to work. Fortunately, the singlehander had the same
model - and a manual. After my grandson carefully read the instructions,
he was able to get the radio operating. Communications are still
important, but one cruiser had solved the problem with email
- and had been kind enough to relay a message for us until we
got our radio working.
Departing from Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen, we did make an
overnight sail across the Sea of Cortez to Marina Real on the
mainland. We had 15 knots of wind, making for a perfect sail
to end a perfect sailing vacation. While making the crossing
we once again encountered extensive marine life.
Marina Real, just north of Guaymas, is one place in the Sea of
Cortez where there have been lots of changes. There is a significant
housing development, a marina with room for 365 boats up to 60
feet, and dry storage. Their new equipment for hauling large
boats to the dry storage is great, as our DownEaster 45 was handled
like a little toy. Their prices were reasonable, too. Interestingly,
there were at least four DownEast 38s and 45s either in storage
or ready to spend the summer on the hard. There is another new
development with a marina under construction just to the south
of the entrance to Marina Real.
One cruiser gave us a good tip for storing a boat on the hard
in hot Mexico: place buckets of water on the decks to keep wood
paneling from shrinking during storage. We aboard Starchaser
want to extend a special hello and thanks to the many cruisers,
many of whom were very helpful during our bouts of engine trouble.
Hello to Karl and Bev of Pelagic from Seattle; to Roger
and Bette of Maho Blue; to Jerry and Astrid of the Del
Mar-based Detachment; to Steven of the Berkeley-based
Valkyrie; and to Michael and Sara Zale of Never Never
Land. Also to the crew of Ravin for exchanging pictures
of our boats while under sail.
On the down side, air transportation in and out of Guaymas remains
a big problem. Aero Mexico and Airwest provide connections to
Phoenix, and you can connect to Tijuana from Hermosillo, but
the prices are too high. The bus from Guaymas to Tijuana is $50,
and they are reportedly good.
Air service out of Loreto wasn't any better. Two of our group
had to return to San Diego from Loreto on short notice, and it
was $300 each on Air California. It was an expensive way to cut
short the trip, but we had been delayed by engine trouble and
they - poor souls - had to get back to waiting jobs.
We will take the Starchaser out of storage in September
and visit the islands to the north. The Sea of Cortez remains
my preferred cruising area.
- henry 6/15/00
Henry - We first cruised in the Sea
of Cortez in the late '70s. Back then a few cruisers were moaning
how most of the Sea was going to be developed in just a couple
of years so everyone had to rush to see it before it was ruined.
That prediction has proved to be as accurate as the one that
everyone would be flying around in personal helicopters by 1995.
What few West Coast sailors seem to appreciate is exactly how
lucky we west coast cruisers are. Between San Diego and Panama,
we have a longer and less developed stretch of coast to cruise
than there is between Gibraltar and Turkey. It's cheap, it's
close, and the coastline is almost entirely undeveloped. The
cruisers in the Med would kill for what we have.
Morgan Lynn - Columbia 35
Rio Dulce, Guatemala
I'm back in Washington visiting my family, having left Morgan
Lynn tied up at Bruno's Marina. The Bruno's on the Rio Dulce
in Guatemala, not in the Sacramento Delta. I left her there for
I departed San Diego in '95 after the Ha-Ha, and hit all the
wonderful ports in Mexico as well as Central America - which
at the time was known as 'The Forgotten Middle'. I left my boat
at Marina Flamingo in Costa Rica for the summer of '96. Everybody
is entitled to an opinion, and mine is that Marina Flamingo is
both shitty and expensive. After returning to my boat, I continued
south to the Canal and the Caribbean. The first week of '96,
I had a great ride to San Andreas, Colombia. My next stop was
Trujillo, Honduras, the beautiful place where I've lived for
the last six years.
Unfortunately, the damn pirates and thieves have nearly destroyed
Trujillo's tourist economy. For instance, my boat was boarded
twice. I took six shots at the first pirate - which captured
the attention of about 30 other people and the police. We caught
the asshole - but after three months in jail he was released
to resume his occupation of stealing.
After sailing back and forth to the Bay Islands several times,
I was again boarded in the early hours. The thieves managed to
steal my nearly new Yamaha 5 hp dinghy motor - totally pissing
me off! I reported the theft to the police, and offered a reward
of 4,000 limpera - which is about $325 U.S. After 10 days of
'investigation', the local police returned my motor - and collected
I continued on to Guatemala, Belize, Isla Mujeres, Cuba, and
Fort Myers, Florida - where Morgan Lynn awaits my return. That's
the short version of my mostly solo cruise. I left out the part
where I was held hostage in Honduras, escaped, and continued
on. I also left out the part about riding my 650 Honda Shadow
from Idaho, to British Columbia, to Panama - and back. That included
a shooting skirmish in Guatemala and a wreck in Mexico. What
- sam 6/15/00
Coastbuster - Lagoon 41 Cat
Russ & Sandy Elsner
Hauling In Mazatlan
Sandy and I are in La Paz getting ready to head up to the Sea
of Cortez for the summer. Before we go, we wanted to share a
very unpleasant experience we had hauling our boat in Mazatlan.
We needed bottom paint, so based on a recommendation, we and
the folks on Cat Man Do, another catamaran, made arrangements
to have the job done at Astilleros Malvinas - which primarily
builds and services large fishing boats. When we hauled out at
the yard, we found it to be very dirty. Realizing that numerous
boatyards are dirty, we just hoped for the best. But what we
encountered was a lack of manpower, tools, and knowledge necessary
for good work on cruising boats.
I could go into detail explaining how we had to loan tools to
the workers and how we ended up having to do a lot of the work
ourselves, but I'll stick with the ugly basics:
- We were on the hard for 13 days!
- The labor alone cost us $900 U.S.!
- It cost us another $600 to clean up our boat. Our boat was
put next to two freighters that ran their generators 24 hours
a day. As if that wasn't enough, we were downwind from a fish
processing plant that spewed smoke from its stacks most of the
day. As a result, we ended up with what can only be described
as a greasy dirt imbedded in the wax in our boats. But degreaser
wouldn't even touch it.
Once we got back to Marina El Cid, Claus of Mazatlan Yacht Service
came to our rescue. He found a product called Oxifin at the local
HMS marine supply store that lifted the grime from our boat without
destroying the gel coat. We had to apply the Oxifin full strength
to small areas, let it sit for about five minutes, hose it off,
then scrub it with ammonia and chlorine to get the remaining
residue off. We then had to use rubbing compound and then wax
the boat again. It took Sandy and I as well as one to three hired
crew six days to get our boat clean again.
Claus feels the problem was mostly caused by the fish plant cleaning
its boilers at night with chemicals that cause a type of acid
rain. I'm told that yards near the power plant have experienced
similar problems. But had our haulout taken three to four days
- as it should have - we wouldn't have had such a terrible experience.
We can't recommend Astilleros Malvinas as a place for cruisers
to haul their boats. And if anyone has to haul their boat anywhere
in Mazatlan, they should cover their boat. Apparently there are
some yards in Mazatlan that do haulouts quickly and without a
mess. By the way, Claus can be reached on VHF 68. He's a go-getter
who takes care of business.
La Paz has been great. The people are nice, it has marine stores,
and it's a good place to provision. But we're now looking forward
to following our new friends up into the Sea.
- russ & sandy 6/1/00
Russ and Sandy - Cruisers need to realize
that once they leave the United States, it's uncertain what kind
of work they'll get at a boatyard - particularly at ones that
primarily work on commercial vessels. We've hauled our boats
in a number of different countries, and had both very good and
very bad experiences. Folks in Third World countries have a whole
different concept of time, so what seems like a three-day job
can - with holidays, hangovers and worker absences - often take
a week or two.
The sound of cheap boatyard labor - say $8/day - can also be
misleading. Usually these workers have neither skills or tools,
and as often as not can do $50/hour worth of damage. That's assuming
the yard can even get labor. We hauled in Trinidad years ago
before it became a yachting center, and the yard provided us
with labor that changed every day for a month. For each time
a worker realized how hard the work was, he collected his day's
pay and never returned.
Guidelines for hauling in foreign countries include: 1) Inspecting
the place in person; 2) Getting references from owners of other
cruising boats; 3) Establishing firm quotes for the time and
expense for each job; 4) Confirming that manpower is available
locally and has the basic skills needed. Even then, it pays to
monitor the job closely.
Just for comparison, while you were hauling your cat in Mazatlan,
we were hauling our 63-foot cat at the Napa Valley Marina. Our
boat came out Thursday about noon, and went back in late the
next afternoon. The $2,500 bill included hauling the boat, prepping
and painting the bottom, and all labor and materials. Based on
that comparison, you didn't get a very good deal. In fact, think
of the money you could have saved if you'd simply let your boat
go high and dry up in Caleta Partida and did the work yourself.
Speck - Gemini 32 Cat
Judy White, Crew
Panama And The Canal
About 10 years ago, Speck's owner, Irwin Studenberg, got
out of his restaurant business and bought the Gemini 32 in the
Cheasapeake Bay. After sailing to Florida, he spent two years
between the Bahamas and the Keys. He then returned to Detroit
via the IntraCoastal Waterway, New York City, and the Erie Canal.
When he left Detroit again, he did so by taking his boat down
the Mississippi River to Mobile, Alabama. It was then loaded
on a truck and delivered to San Diego in October of '97.
In April of '98, Irwin sailed down the Baja coast and spent a
wonderful year in the Sea of Cortez and on mainland Mexico. After
leaving Zihuatanejo with a group of boats listening to the Panama
Connection on SSB, he stopped at Porto Madero, Huatulco, Guatamala,
Honduras and the Bay of Fonseca. While coming into the bay, he
caught a 9-foot sailfish that helped feed the village of Amapala
on El Tigre Island. The island, by the way, is the remains of
a huge volcanic cone, and the setting is so lovely it appears
on the country's $2 bill.
Continuing south, Irwin spent six months in Costa Rica, which
was beautiful - but more touristy and expensive than he had hoped.
He took seven day-trips to get from Playas de Coco, in the northern
part of Costa Rica, to Golfito, in the southern part of the country.
He stopped at remote but usually rolly anchorages. Buddyboating
with Quarter Splash, the two vessels then spent two months exploring
dozens of offshore islands between Golfito and the Canal, most
of them in Panama. After enjoying some stops at Panama's Las
Perlas Islands, he made his way to Isla Flamenco anchorage off
of Panama City.
Irwin spent three months waiting for me to sell my house in San
Diego and close down my photography business so that I could
join him for good. On March 17, after I joined him, we transited
the Canal on March 17 with Alison White, my daughter, and her
boyfriend Donny - both from San Francisco - along as crew. We
also had the Lundin family - Eric, Fay and Tim - of the Long
Beach-based Camelot along. We then spent several weeks
exploring the San Blas Islands. It's now June, and we're in Cartagena,
Colombia, near Club Nautico.
I'd like to tell Latitude readers about the two cities
in Panama that are of the most importance to cruisers. Panama
City, on the Pacific side, and Colon, on the Caribbean side.
Panama City - with a population of over 700,000 - feels like
a large metropolis, but it's definitely part of the Third World.
It's not a tourist destination - except for those who want to
transit the Canal. When viewed from the water at night, Panama
City looks like San Diego or New York City, as it has a very
beautiful skyline of tall buildings with lots of lights. By day
you see the reality - it's dusty, dirty and poor. Every building
needs some sort of repair - and paint wouldn't hurt either. Only
in the upper class neighborhoods do the buildings and homes have
a 'middle class' look to an American. However, most of these
homes have two and three vehicles in their driveways - usually
Mercedes, BMWs, Volvos or SUVs. Nonetheless, with gas selling
for $2/gallon, a car is definitely a luxury for most Panamanians.
From what I could tell, the taxis are privately owned. The driver
purchases a permit/license, buys a magnetic 'Taxi' sign for the
roof of his car, and voila, he's in business! Because there is
so much competition - every fourth car seems to be a taxi - the
prices are low. Many rides are $1, and $3 will get you all the
way across the city.
Most people travel by bus, however, which is a real bargain.
For 15 to 30 cents, they'll take you anyplace a taxi can go.
The buses are also privately-owned and very colorful. They are
painted in wild colors and often feature nature scenes, curvaceous
women or slogans. I saw one called 'Alison' - my daughter's name
- with a painting of a knife-wielding woman on the side. The
insides of the buses are also customized, with mirrors, bumper
stickers, decals, fuzzy animals, lurid scenes and quotations.
They add some entertainment and flavor to a rather dull city.
Panama's open air markets sell everything you can can imagine,
from fish to wrenches. The vegetables found in these markets
are fresh and inexpensive, but the best deal is on seasonal fruit.
I've never tasted more delicious pineapples, mangos and bananas.
They were sweet and inexpensive. The beef was also cheap, but
it was leather like and could only be prepared with the help
of a pressure-cooker. On the other hand, the chicken and pork
were better than any I've tasted in the States: lean, tender
and without any fat.
While the food is plentiful and there is no shortage of ingredients
for speciality dishes, the Panamanians seem to be mediocre cooks.
The smoked pork was excellent and the spiced chicken was good,
but unlike Mexico where there were plenty of flavorful dishes,
Panama has bland food.
For those who don't have the stomach for the open market - the
combined flavors of raw fish, meat and veggies is very pungent
- there is Reys Market. This is every bit as nice as any Vons,
Target or Publix - with all the stuff they have in one place.
The prices, however, are more like back in the States, as you
pay for cleanliness and convenience. Panama City also has a Price
Club that's a carbon copy of the one in San Diego.
Since the U.S. turned over control of the Canal, Panama has been
struggling economically. Unemployment is high, so there is lots
of crime in the streets. One afternoon we saw a young thug race
off with the wallet of an elderly Panamanian man who was burdened
with packages. In a nutshell, the wealthy Panamanians are happy
to see America pull out of the country, but the average middle
and lower class citizens miss the American dollars.
On any given day the marinas and free anchorage are home to 75-150
boats from all parts of the world having either come through
or about to go through the Canal. Using a bit of English and
a bit of Spanish, most of us are able to communicate with each
other and the locals.
Next month, the Canal itself and Colon.
- judy 5/00
Tucumcari - N/A
After reading an account of Tucumcari's meeting with the
mysterious rock of Tenacatita Bay in the April
Changes section of Latitude, I thought I'd better write in
to give the real story rather than the 'telephone' version.
We were sailing from the outer anchorage heading east to the
inner anchorage, when I decided to cut inside the center rock.
There were two reasons for my decision. First, because I'd heard
lots of reports that the 'hidden rock' didn't really exist. Second,
because I'd previously gone fishing close to Punta Chubasco and
found the water to be very deep right off the point and off the
outlying large rock. Thinking that we could safely stay close
to the point, we cut inside. We were sailing at about five knots
when the bottom came up quickly: from 50 feet to 14 feet to BANG!
in a matter of seconds.
Our boat came to an abrupt halt, but listing over so far that
her starboard rail was in the water! You wouldn't have believed
the noise! The boat immediately returned to upright and the depthsounder
showed 20 feet. Cyn, my wife, dashed below and started gathering
passports and wallets - until I yelled down to check the bilge.
It turned out to be dry. Phew!
I know I should have gotten a GPS position on the rock, but I
was pretty pumped up with adrenaline at the moment and couldn't
think beyond getting the hook down and jumping in the water to
assess the damage. A quick dive revealed that the only visible
damage was a fist-sized gouge out of the front of Tucumcari's
external lead keel. This proved that we'd indeed hit a rock as
opposed to a manta ray or other denizen of the deep - as some
people apparently speculated.
As far as I remember, the rock we struck was about 100 yards
southeast of Punta Chubasco at a depth of about five feet - we
draw 5.5 feet. We decided to head back to Puerto Vallarta earlier
than we had planned in order to haul the boat and make sure there
wasn't any further damage and to fair up the leading edge of
the keel for the trip across the Pacific.
Having been in the Tenacatita area when Stone Witch went
down in '84-85, then having watched Liberte burn and sink
just a week or so prior to our hitting the rock, I'm left with
some real mixed memories of the area around Tenacatita Bay. But
now we're part of the South Pacific fleet and happily anchored
near Papeete and can look back on some fine weeks in the Marquesas
and Tuamotus. The latter included the usual scary moments, which
I guess are de rigeur for anyone negotiating passes from the
often lumpy ocean outside to the not-always-tranquil lagoons
All in all we're having a great time in French Polynesia and
soon plan to head west to Samoa, Tonga and then on to Fiji if
the political situation allows. P.S. Thanks for the great magazine.
- bob starr
Bob - Thanks for the first-person account,
which is usually the best. It's interesting that some people
speculated that you might have hit a ray, because we hit one
the year before with Profligate
off Yelapa, and it felt like we'd slammed into the biggest rock
in the world.
In news that ultimately may have a significant impact on West
Coast cruisers, Vicente Fox was elected President of Mexico -
in what was, by all accounts, a fair election. In so doing, Fox
knocked the PRI party, which had been in power for about a million
years, out of power. A former Coca-Cola executive and rancher,
the moderately right-wing Fox has already been reaching out to
Greens and other members of the left to try to form a pluralistic
government. Fox vows to end corruption and reduce drug smuggling,
monumental undertakings as both have almost become part of the
fabric of life in Mexico. Fox, whose free trade inclinations
and global outlook bode well for cruisers, takes office on December
Rising like a phoenix? Well, almost. The Balboa YC in Panama
was one of the most unusual yacht clubs in the world. Before
the American troops were pulled out of Panama, the club was the
after-dark place for young Panamanian ladies to set traps for
horny young U.S. soldiers who were their ticket to the United
States. These ambitious young women dressed to kill, so nights
at the yacht club bar were almost like being at a sex show. The
scene calmed down substantially after the U.S. troops were pulled
out. And when the club burned down - or was torched - the scene
came to a standstill. In any event, Larry Liberty is delighted
to announce that he is once again ready to preside over the club's
operation. Since the clubhouse hasn't been rebuilt, the operation
is limited to the swimming pool and bar - and the marine ways
and the fuel dock. But it's a start. We promise to let you know
if the women return.
"My wife, Tina Crary-Windahl, and I won the Chili Cook-Off,
New Age division, at this year's Sea of Cortez Sailing Week at
Isla Partida," reports Ethan Windahl of Gypsy Dolphin.
"Our entry was a vegetarian recipe we called Alaska Frontier
Chili. The entry on the table next to us was the Firehose Chili
created by Ben of Calliope. He kept a fire extinguisher
handy for emergencies. Sailing Week was an enjoyable experience
for us, and we think most others felt the same way. In closing,
we'd like to say kudos to Latitude for your excellent
coverage of events in Mexico - including the tempest in a teapot
over the 'safety inspections' in La Paz."
Thanks for the kind words, Ethan. It's ironic, but we think our
worst coverage in Mexico is of Sea of Cortez Sailing Week - an
event the Wanderer and Latitude founded in the early '80s.
If someone would be kind enough to count the number of boats,
list who won the basic events, and send us some photos, we'd
love to feature it.
Norm and Lois Anderson of Boise, Idaho, made many friends when
they circumnavigated from '86 to '93 aboard their Tartan 37 Sisu.
Lois now has the unpleasant task of letting everyone know that
Norm passed away suddenly in May at the age of 69. "For
those of you planning to go cruising someday," Lois urges,
"go now before the sun sets."
"I'm just back in the States building up the cruising kitty
while my Jeanneau Fantasia 27 Vully stays at Marina Vallarta,"
reports frequent singlehander Mark Daniels of Sausalito. "I'm
just counting down the days until I'm back on the boat in the
warm waters of Mexico. I'll see everyone down south this winter!"
In 1995, a Russian vessel named Baikal sailed across the
Pacific and down the West Coast. They got lots of support from
waterfront folks and businesses, which made Lyn Reynolds "proud
to be an American". Now Lyn wonders what happened to the
boat and the crew. Does anybody know?
A few months ago somebody wrote in asking about Beau Hudson,
who circumnavigated a number of years ago with his wife Annie
aboard their Freya 39 Lionwing. By chance, we bumped into
their daughter at Milano's Restaurant in Tiburon. She told us
that while they don't have a boat any longer, Beau has been casting
longing looks at a Lidgard 44 in New Zealand.
"After two years in Mexico and two years in the Pacific
Northwest, our Ranger 33 The Farm is back in her slip
at the Richmond YC," reports Ed Greene of Santa Rosa. "We've
owned her for 20 years and she's a helluva boat! After doing
the Baja Bash back from Mexico, we had the boat trucked up to
Olympia, Washington, for $1,900. After the season was over, we
left the boat in Anacortes for the winter for about $160/month.
I was born in the Northwest, so I know better than to hang around
up there during that time of year. After another season in the
Northwest, we trucked the boat back to Richmond for just $1,200!
The different time of year might have had something to do with
the lower shipping cost.
"Here's a tip for others headed to Washington," continues
Greene. "According to Washington state law, if your boat
has been there for 90 days, you have to register it. I got all
kinds of jailhouse advice on how to avoid paying these fees,
but then I ran into a guy from Red Bluff who had kept his 30-footer
in a Washington boatyard. When they found out he hadn't registered
the boat there, they fined him $2,600! So I decided I would go
the legal route - and the registration cost me less than half
of what I would have had to pay in Contra Costa in personal property
tax. So legal was better."
"The following is a brief summary of my activities in May
and June," writes John Keen of the San Francisco-based Gulf
32 Knot Yet - who is a vet of the '97 Ha-Ha. "My boat spent
the cyclone season in Scarborough while I travelled by land elsewhere
in Australia and by plane back to California. Then on May 11,
I departed Brisbane on a month-long, singlehanded, 756-mile trip
north to Townsville, Queensland. I was underway for 21 of the
32 days. There were no overnight passages involved, although
I did leave some ports as early as 3:30 a.m. in order to reach
some destinations before dark. My trip involved staying in eight
marinas, two river anchorages, and 11 island anchorages. Some
of the more interesting navigation was required around the Great
Sandy Straits near Fraser Island, The Narrows between Curtis
Island and the mainland, and the Gloucester Passage. I had hoped
to spend a bit more time in the Whitsunday Islands - which are
beautiful cruising grounds - but they were living up to their
nickname of the 'Wetsundays'. I felt sorry for the people who
had chartered boats and were sitting around disgruntled in the
marinas. By the time this reaches print, I'll have been back
to California and returned to Australia again - with crew for
the next chapter in my cruise. Upcoming destinations include
Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Palau, the Philippines, Brunei,
Malaysia and Thailand. This should be an eight to nine-month
"By the time you read this we should have left Gig Harbor
for California, getting ready for the October 31 start of the
Baja Ha-Ha with a few hundred of our closest friends," report
Jan and Signe Twardowski of the Sundeer 64 cutter Raven.
"We'll spend the winter in Mexico, do the 'puddle jump'
in late March for the South Pacific, and should be in New Zealand
by November of next year. We spent last summer cruising up to
Glacier Bay, Alaska, and have posted lots of photos at www.ravencruise.com."
This is a nice site folks, so check it out.
John Anderton sent an email from the Stanford Medical Center
with a warning for Ha-Ha participants: The entries, support crews
and camp-followers of the inaugural Baja 2000 motorcycle race
from Ensenada to Cabo will apparently be descending on the Cape
on about the 14th and 15th of November. Since Cabo is crazy enough
without additional bikers, the Ha-Ha fleet - which should be
arriving on the 9th and finish up with the Award's Ceremony on
the 11th - will fortunately have enough time to relax, take care
of business, and leave before the 14th.
By the time you read this, Paula Peters and Dale Finely, formerly
of Novato, should have sailed out the Gate and turned left aboard
their Fairweather Mariner 39 Sunrise. It will mark the
beginning of a long delayed cruise - that started as follows:
"Paula was crewing on the Cal 39 II Shea in the Marquesas
in May of '84, when Dale arrived while crewing aboard the Hardin
45 Alta Mar. A few boats later, we started crewing together
aboard the Force 50 Invicta in Bora Bora. We crewed on
several other boats and then toured Australia by VW van. A family
illness brought our adventures to a close in '85, when we returned
to California. After six months living in different parts of
the state, we moved in together in Northern California. At that
time we were talking about 'buying our own boat and going cruising
in five years'. Well, it's taken three times as long as we thought,
but we've now sold the house, quit the jobs, and are out of here!
Thank you Latitude for keeping our cruising dreams alive."
You're more than welcome. Have a great trip!
"We had a good passage from Panama's San Blas Islands, past
Cartagena, Colombia, then north into the lee of Hispaniola, before
making landfall at Ponce, Puerto Rico," report John Neal
and Amanda Neal Swan from their Hallberg-Rassy 46 Mahina Tiare.
"We really appreciated Latitude's tips on making
this passage. We had easterly winds averaging 22 knots, with
26 to 30 knots occasionally. It wasn't terrible - and we had
much less wind than Steve and Linda Dashew did when they went
upwind in the Caribbean in February aboard their 84-ft Beowulf.
We're now headed to Roadtown in the British Virgins to pick up
our crew for the trip to the Azores."
As best we can remember, the bulk of our advice to John and Amanda
for the upwind passage from Panama to the Virgins was that it's
much better to do it in June when the trades have eased off and
before the hurricanes can be expected. February, when the trades
are often 'reinforced', is the worst month - which is why the
Dashews got clobbered. Speaking of Steve and Linda Dashew, they
flew from their home in Tucson back to Beowulf, which
they had left in New Bedford, for some summer cruising in the
Northeast. The couple are currently halfway done with writing
Defensive Seamanship, which they claim will be their last book.
"I'd like you to add my email and Web site addresses to
the pile that you're collecting from cruisers," writes Al
MacDiarmid of the Freedom 28 Broad Reacher. "You may remember
that I crewed for the Wanderer on one race in the early years
of Sea of Cortez Sailing Week. I later sailed my little Freedom
from San Diego to Hawaii, and up to Puget Sound where I spent
five years. I'm now in the Delta at Owl Harbor Marina - where
some rats got aboard and did quite a bit of damage. In any event,
I've sailed 30,500 miles in my retirement home, 12,500 of them
singlehanded - and 21,000 of them after the engine had been removed.
My Web site address is www.homestead.com/broadreacher.
I can also be ."
"We stopped at Isla Socorro with our Vallejo-based Nichol
trimaran in '89 while on our way to Micronesia," report
Jay and Paulla DeMello. "Ten years later, we bought our
current boat, a Marples 37 trimaran in Chula Vista. On our way
to Hawaii, we stopped at Socorro again and were pleasantly surprised
to discover that there are still lots of lobster at the Revillagegdos.
We've been living in Hawaii on and off for the last three years,
where I work as the charter captain aboard the Hughes catamaran
Kamanu. But we've gotten so sick of the crap that boaters
have to put up with in Hawaii that we're heading back to the
mainland in August with our new boat - and hopefully will be
able to make the Ha-Ha. After we leave the Islands, we'll tell
you all about it."
"We sailed south in the Ha-Ha last year and found that we
really like the cruising life - even though we were laid up much
of the time with mechanical and customs problems," report
Matt and Judy Johnston of the San Francisco-based Cabo Rico 38
Elsewhere. "As a result, we got to know and love
Mazatlan. So although we made it as far south as Puerto Vallarta,
we returned to Mazatlan with a dying transmission because we
knew the guys at R.P.M. Marine would be there to help. The only
reason we ended up in Mazatlan for so long is that we got caught
in a custom's trap. Despite getting almost all the paperwork
right, and having it all translated into Spanish, our repair
parts still got stuck at customs in Guadalajara. Even though
we provided Customs with everything they asked for, they still
refused to release our stuff. The bottom line is this: Don't
try to ship boat parts to Mexico by DHL or FedEx. Several other
cruisers in Mazatlan were waging the same battle with customs
- and we all lost. Interestingly enough, we were never asked
for mordida to get our stuff. In fact, we never even had the
chance to offer it!"
"When they finally ran out of things to ask for and they
still refused to release our stuff," the Johnstons continue,
"we had it returned to California. At that point we found
other cruisers flying down who were willing to bring the parts
as part of their baggage. Thanks to Earl on Kelmar and
later to Guy on Savage Lady for their 'Pony Express service'.
Also thanks to Aeolus having earlier brought batteries
down. Right now we're back in Antioch because of family matters,
but our boat is fixed and ready for next season. We haven't been
discouraged by our problems and delays, and can't wait for the
cruising season to start again in October."
Last month we had a Sightings feature on Russell Brown's Port
Townsend-based 36-ft proa Jzerro, which he was about to
sail to the South Pacific with Steve Callahan, author of the
terrific book Adrift, 76 Days At Sea. Despite the light
winds, they made it from San Francisco to the Marquesas in a
sizzling 20 days. They couldn't motor, of course, as they had
"I have a comprehensive GPS waypoint list for both Mexico
and the South Pacific Islands," reports John Brand of the
San Francisco-based Fantasia 35 Pinniped, which is currently
in Auckland. "The Mexico list of GPS waypoints was published
in Charlies Charts of Mexico, while the South Pacific list is
available from me via ."
Don't forget the cruising photos on 'Lectronic
Latitude. They're in vibrant color and - we think - quite