With reports this month on the
loss of Sound Decision on the Big
Island; from Maude I. Jones on cruising
East Africa; from Cheval on the quick
trip from the Caribbean to California; from Renaissance
on six months in Mexico; from Witch of
Endor on the pleasures of Ecuador; from Anonymous
on disappointment in Cuba; and lots of Cruise
Sound Decision -
Disasterous Landfall In Hawaii
I learned that 'Lectronic Latitude had heard about my
plight, and I wanted to say 'thank you' for your concern and
interest. Here's the story of my 10,573-mile cruise and its abrupt
I set sail alone from Bellingham on September 12, 2003, aboard
my Bob Perry-designed 1979 Islander 32. I cruised down the
West Coast of the United States and in Mexico as far as Puerto
Vallarta. I then sailed across to the Marquesas as part of the
'04 Puddle Jump group. I then continued through the Tuamotus
and Society Islands.
On June 4, I left Papeete for Hawaii. I sailed a perfect northerly course
with good easting, crossing the equator at 143°W, seldom
dropping below six knots. The last two days before landfall I
had light wind from the east, but there were large swells from
the northeast and east. It made for sloppy seas and prevented
me from getting much sleep. It was nothing I was overly
concerned with, however, so I slept in bits and spurts, and kept
on course using my Sail-O-Mat windvane. Two hundred miles from
Hilo, I found myself trying to sail dead downwind in five knots
of wind, so I started the motor, plotting a course to have me
arriving at Hilo on the Big Island during daylight. The currents
and my fatigue made my choice a bad one, however, as I drifted
into sleep down below with a cup of tea in my hand. The next
thing I knew, we were hitting the reef and rocks five miles from
the light at Blonde Reef shortly after midnight on June 26.
Needless to say, it was a rude shock when the bow of my boat
struck the Big Island at six knots. After 20 days at sea from
French Polynesia, I was ready for a beach, not hard rocks! I
first thought I'd been run down by a ship, but then I saw the
rocks, the surf, and the cliff my boat was being pounded against.
Although I knew my boat was doomed, I quickly threw the transmission
into reverse. The boat moved about five feet backwards before
a breaker slammed into her, throwing her over the reef and smashing
her rudder on a rock.
Scrambling below, I put out a Mayday. The Coast Guard responded
with a rescue ETA and safety information. Twenty minutes later,
a huge swell broke Sound Decision's back, taking out the
port side in one sweep. With water reaching as high as my knees
in a matter of seconds, I knew I would have to abandon ship.
I called the Coast Guard again for an ETA, but got no answer.
I called 10 minutes later and still got no response. So I took
the photos of my children, my laptop, my passport, and a pair
of shoes, and stuffed them in a pillowcase I would use as a ditch
bag. Unfortunately, I couldn't locate my cash kitty, because
there was now a lava boulder where the galley cupboard had been.
After 45 minutes, the Hilo Fire Department arrived with a launch
and was able to rescue me. At the time, I could only take what
I had in my pillowcase. The rest was at the mercy of the surf.
Unfortunately, Sound Decision had come to rest at a remote
place subject to high surf. With the help of volunteers, I was
eventually able to salvage about 30% of my belongings. This was
pretty good, considering that looters came every night to take
what we hadn't gotten. But overall, the Hilo community was incredibly
good and helpful to me.
I'm alive and will sail again. The main thing now is for me to
find a way to see my children in Bellingham, and get money to
them to continue their lives as well as mine. But I am alive,
and will sail again.
- tom 7/6/04
Readers - The word from Puddle Jumpers
is that Wilkinson is a nice guy. So if you - like us - would
like to send him a little money to help him see his kids and
get back on his feet again, send a check to Tom Wilkinson, c/o
John Messina, 15-121E, Puni Lanai, Pahoa, Hawaii 96778. Shortly
after the loss of his boat he was able to get a construction
job, so he's not destitute, but the extra money and encouragement
would certainly be a much-appreciated boost.
I. Jones - Finch 46
Rob & Mary Messenger
Cruising East Africa
(Houston / Sacramento)
[The first two installments of our report on Rob and Mary's 10.5
year trip around the world appeared in the Changes section
of the April and May issues.]
From the Chagos Archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean,
the couple had a seven-day trip to the Seychelles, a group of
about 100 islands in the western Indian Ocean. The islands are
unusual for the area because they are granite. Rob and Mary found
the islands to be quite pretty, but thought that there were too
many rules and regulations to be able enjoy the more remote islands.
The Praslin Islands, part of the Seychelles group, are unique
because they are the only place in the world where Coco de Mers,
also known as double coconuts, grow. What's unusual about these
coconuts - some of which weigh 50 pounds, making them one of
the largest fruits in the world - is that they are double-lobed
and thus bear a strong resemblance to female genitalia. As such,
they sell for several hundred dollars. "It must be a guy
thing," shrugs Mary.
After another seven-day sail west, Maude anchored in Kilifi Creek,
Kenya, about 50 miles north of Mombassa. It was here that Tony
and Daphne Britchford played host to the handful of yachties
who needed to catch up on their rest or were dying to jump into
their swimming pool. The couple were able to assist yachties
with just about all their needs. For example, their day employees
were also available to sleep on boats at night for security purposes
while yachties visited some of Kenya's famed national parks.
And those who have cruised East Africa will certainly remember
Tony's weather forecasts over the ham radio. Sadly, he passed
away from diabetes complications in January of '02.
It just so happened that Sam, Rob's best friend of 35 years,
was living in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. He's the manager
of a blue jeans manufacturing plant that employs 2,000 workers
from 35 different African tribes! So Rob and Mary flew up to
see him several times. Sam took them to several national parks,
where they saw baboons, zebras, rhinos, gazelles, and a dozen
lions. From Amboseli National Park, they twice saw the snow-covered
peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest in Africa. Since the snow
cap is diminishing and is usually shrouded in clouds, the peak
is not often seen.
The best part of going on safari with Sam was that Rob and Mary
were able to travel at their own pace in the air-conditioned
comfort of Sam's 4X4. Not only could they observe wildlife on
their own schedule, they could do it while drinking lots of cold
beer - to clear the dust from their throats, of course. The couple
remember their time in Kenya as being one of the highlights of
their long near-circumnavigation.
After an adventurous five months in Kenya, Rob and Mary spent
a couple of weeks in Ethiopia with Mary's parents, exploring
ancient religious sites. They even saw 'Lucy's bones', which
at one time were considered the world's oldest remains of (wo)man.
"Before we went to Ethiopia, we had a lot of concerns because
of the media attention about the extreme poverty," remembers
Rob. "But the Ethiopians have a lot of national pride, and
we felt safe, even in the most remote areas. The people were
industrious and informative about their culture."
The couples next stop was the Spice Island of Zanzibar. "It
was fabulous!" says Mary. "In California, 150 years
ago is like the beginning of time. In Zanzibar, the civilization
is more than 5,000 years old." Zanzibar was once the center
of lucrative trade on the coast of East Africa, and locals still
ply these waters in dhows in order to trade. Zanzibar was also
the last place in the region to abandon slavery.
Among Rob and Mary's next stops were Dars es Salaam, a major
port and cosmopolitan city in Tanzania, and Ilha Mozambique,
the original capital of Mozambique. The latter had a well-preserved
fort and was very beautiful. The only fly in the ointment is
that the locals use the beautiful white sand beaches as their
toilets. "We saw piles of human crap everywhere on the beach,"
Theft was another concern. "After catching a trespasser
on our boat one night, I would stay up from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.,
shining a spotlight every hour or so to keep people away,"
recalls Rob. A pair of binoculars and other miscellaneous deck
gear were all that was stolen from the deck of Maude I. Jones.
"It's not that the people of Mozambique were violent or
anything, they'd just become sneak-thieves because they were
so terribly poor. In that country $50 U.S. would buy a stack
of local currency a foot tall that you wouldn't be able to spend
for days. We lived on calamari steaks, salads, and cold beer,
all of which were readily available at a number of palapa-style
restaurants along the beach.
While in a reef-strewn area of Mozambique during a horrible rainstorm,
the couple's GPS antenna became waterlogged and failed. As such,
they had to dead-reckon 60 miles down the coast to Pemba, which
is a resort area - although not one which would be confused with
Bora Bora or some place in the Caribbean. Since there were no
West Marines in Mozambique in which to buy a replacement GPS,
the couple were lucky to come across a local dive shop that had
a handheld Garmin GPS for sale. It was of no use to the dive
shop because they didn't know how to reprogram the military data
out. But Rob did. One can only imagine what a GPS with military
data was doing in Mozambique.
Like other cruisers, Rob and Mary had heard that Nosy Be, Madagascar,
was a spectacular and unspoiled cruising ground. Unfortunately,
at the time they could have visited, two politicians were disputing
the results of the presidential election. Like Bush and Gore,
both claimed to be president. But in Madagascar there was civil
unrest, and it didn't seem safe to visit. Friends who have subsequently
visited Nosy Be report that all is well.
From Ilha Mozambique, Maude I. Jones would sail 1,000
miles down the Mozambique Channel to Richard's Bay, South Africa.
She was fortunate not to have been hit by a dreaded Southwester,
the waves of which, when combined with the Agulhus Current, have
been known to consume ships. Thinking back on their nearly two
years in East Africa, Rob and Mary view it as a virgin cruising
ground. "We didn't see five cruising boats between Kenya
and South Africa. And having recently passed through the Caribbean,
we not only know that East Africa is less crowded, it's less
Like other cruisers, Rob and Mary found they had to always be
on their toes when moving along the potentially treacherous rough
coast of South Africa, always checking the weather and seeking
local knowledge from fishermen. "But there was no point
in paying attention to long term weather forecasts," remembers
Rob, "because they would always change." It doesn't
help that there were few natural anchorages.
"South Africa is an interesting country in transition,"
says Mary. "They have some great things, such as the wine
country, terrific scenery, and some wonderful people. South Africa
also has some really bad stuff, such as extreme poverty, ghetto
townships, and an extremely high rate of violent crime."
Rob and Mary recall that they went to a restaurant in Natal one
night only to discover that armed men had robbed the place the
night before. "The bad guys said they robbed the rich to
feed the poor, but the food and service were so good that all
the customers came back the next night."
Leaving Saldahna, north of Cape Town, in February of '03, Rob
and Mary sailed up to Namibia, another very interesting country.
"Since we've been in the Caribbean, we've already seen four
Namibian sailboats. There are lots of diamonds in that sparsely-inhabited
African country, and people can get permits to mine diamonds
from the ocean. About one in 10 hits it big."
Crossing the South Atlantic, the couple stopped at little St.
Helena before continuing on to Brazil for two months, a place
the couple describe as "a sleeper for cruising". According
to Rob, "Brazil has everything that a cruiser could want,
and it's very cheap." The only problem is crime. But they
say that, with local knowledge, one can avoid most of the worst
areas. Luck, of course, can play a big part in whether or not
one is a victim.
After a stop at Devil's Island, they rode as much as four knots
of current up to Tobago, their landfall in the Caribbean. Five
days after arriving, they found themselves surrounded by nearly
a hundred yachts participating in Tobago Sailing Week. Up until
then, it had been years since they'd seen so many boats. Rob
found himself crewing on Ain't Misbehavin', a racer/cruiser they'd
met in Brazil. He had a ball sailing in the fast lane.
"It's hard to believe," says Rob, "but the Caribbean
is probably the most expensive place in the world for boat insurance.
For example, off South Africa, where the conditions can really
be treacherous, we only paid $900 a year to Lloyds. In the Caribbean,
the same underwriter wanted $2,800 a year - more than 300% more.
So we went without."
As we noted in the April and May Changes, Rob and Mary
have been cruising comfortably on $25,000 a year, all things
included. Perhaps their number one low-cost secret is that they
very rarely dine out. "We'd rather spend money on the best
ingredients and make the food ourselves. Not only is it less
expensive, but our meals are almost always better than we could
get in a restaurant."
Although both Rob and Mary would both dearly love to continue
cruising, in June they sailed to Florida to "do something"
to replenish the cruising kitty. They arrived at Fort Lauderdale
at 0200 and tied up to a fuel dock. By 8:30 a.m., Rob had a job
as a construction supervisor, and by 4 p.m. he had his company
truck. In a way that's good, but having not had a job in 11 years,
it's also a challenge. "The other night," Rob says,
"I sat bolt upright in bed and said, "What the f--k
have I done? Mary and I miss cruising already."
- latitude 38
Cheval - Outremer
St. Martin To Newport Beach
(Corona del Mar)
[Editor's note: Thanks to the bungling of the Changes
Editor, this piece didn't appear in the April issue when it should
Our return from St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean to California
went smoothly and swiftly. With my wife Caroline and our three
youngsters having flown home to California, a friend and I doublehanded
the 1,200-mile leg to Panama. Our route was due west for about
18 hours, which took us north of St. Croix and along the south
coast of Puerto Rico. About half of the way along the bottom
of Puerto Rico, we jibed over and started heading directly toward
Colon, Panama, and the entrance to the Canal. This route was
intended to keep us about 90 miles off the coast of Columbia,
where large and confused seas are common.
Our sail to Panama was very enjoyable, as we had 20 to 30 knots
of wind, with gusts to 40 - all from behind, of course. As such,
there were plenty of swells for surfing. We covered the nearly
1,200 miles in five days and six hours without ever using the
main or spinnaker. Throttled back, we used nothing but the Solent
jib or the gennaker.
I had a great time in Panama - even Colon, which is frequently
described as being very dangerous. I found Panamanians to be
sone of the most industrious people I have ever met. They realize
the bureaucracy is redundant, but work around it - usually until
the job is finished. And I was impressed on all levels, from
the Canal officials to government employees to the local business
Our Atlantic to Pacific Canal transit also went smoothly. I chose
to use taxi driver/ship's agent Joseph Briggs, who can be reached
at (507) 637-5339. 'Taxi driver' does not really do Briggs and
his associates justice. I think there are only about five people
allowed to help sailboats with their paperwork, all of them licensed
by the government. From my experience they are a bargain. My
costs were $65 to check-in and out, about $30 for tires/fenders,
and $60 for lines. Briggs was even able to move me up in the
transit schedule about four days, which I believe is fairly unusual.
Our transit began at the leisurely time of 10 a.m., and we were
anchored off Flamenco Marina in the Pacific by 10 p.m. I did
use three professional line-handlers, which cost an additional
$150, as we were short-handed, and this helped make the transit
even more relaxed. Folks need to remember that if you stay in
Panama City for more than 24 hours after your transit, you have
to check in all over again. Call Castillo (507) 683-9945 from
the port captain's office. He grew up in Southern California
and is very helpful.
Heading from Panama to California, we had light winds until we
got 30 to 40-knot Papagayos on the beam. This resulted in beautiful
sailing, and I was pleased again to see how well our cat handled.
The wind only lasted 12 hours, and we were soon motoring again.
It was also great to see so much sea life - particularly turtles
- off this coast. We had no wind in the Gulf of Tehuantepec either.
Breaking the 'rule' of always keeping one foot on the beach,
we cut straight across the often notoriously rough gulf, then
decided to head inshore to look for day/night breezes and more
favorable current. By the time we came out of the gulf on the
coast of mainland Mexico, we'd picked up a light westerly - meaning
right on the nose.
Our first fuel stop out of Panama was Acapulco, and we did another
one at Cabo San Lucas. Breaking more springtime 'rules', we departed
Cabo at noon. It was rough around Cabo Falso, but after an hour
or so the wind eased off to just 10 to 15 knots. These light
winds stayed with us until the north end of Cedros Island. Our
remaining stop was Turtle Bay, just south of Cedros.
To sum it up, our Antigua to Panama trip took 5.5 days, while
our Panama to San Diego trip, with three crew, took exactly 20
days. When I do this trip again next time with my family, I hope
to take much longer.
- chris 4/05/04
Readers - As reported several months
ago, the Bridge family picked up their cat new from the factory
in France and cruised the Med for the summer. Chris and friends
delivered the boat to the Caribbean, where the family joined
him for some more cruising, then flew home while he delivered
the boat to California. Outremer cats are rare on the West Coast
of the United States, but last month we saw Gryphon, a sistership, sailing around the Bay.
Renaissance - Islander
Six Months In Mexico
(Bellevue, WA / Mazatlan)
I left Redondo Beach on January 3 - a cold and windy day - for
a six-month cruise in Mexico. I enjoyed a fantastic trip sailing
south along the Baja coast, and encountered many incredibly bold,
adventurous, and kind people at every port and anchorage.
During my trip, I came to realize that the 18 months I invested
in preparing for my cruise were well spent. I began by spending
several months searching for an affordable but seaworthy boat,
and later invested in the first two American Sailing Association
certifications. I also put in several months last fall attending
the Coast Guard Auxiliary Advanced Navigation classes in the
evening, and took a few months to sit in on a Marine Diesel Mechanic
class at the Long Beach Community College. The instructor of
the latter class had worked as a mechanic for over 30 years in
Long Beach Harbor. Even though he was over 70 years of age, he
was a good teacher.
Having left my boat in Mazatlan, I'm now back in the Pacific
Northwest, where I've been most fortunate to be able to find
an exciting new opportunity with a hi-tech start-up. Nonetheless,
I miss sleeping on Renaissance, the warmth of the Mexican
sun, and the sound of the waves crashing on deserted beaches.
I even miss the hum of my boat's 16-hp diesel as we entered a
It's true, I didn't make it as far south - Ecuador - as I had
hoped this season, but I had a very relaxing voyage, made many
new friends, and had some awesome adventures. I also learned
a ton of new stuff, and discovered more about what I like about
cruising. I also learned how to sail in light to very little
wind - a not-so-fun part. Folks in the marina at Mazatlan seemed
a bit surprised when I told them it took me about five days to
sail the 200 miles over from La Paz - but hey, after the second
day my mind downshifted and I enjoyed the slowness of the trip!
I didn't have a lot of the more fancy sailing equipment, such
as radar, SSB radio, wind generator, or big honking watermaker.
But I did have what I felt was needed to feel safe: an EPIRB
with a GPS, a PUR-6 emergency watermaker, two handheld GPS units,
and two VHF radios.
The stories in Latitude; the intrepid adventures of the
past Baja Ha-Ha crowds; the writings of Lin and Larry Pardey,
Joshua Slocum, John Guzzwell, the Hiscocks, and the Smeetons;
and that fateful invitation to go sailing on a lake in Little
Rock many years ago with my good friend Jack Finch, all contributed
to my cruising dream becoming a reality.
- kelvin 06/05/04
Kelvin - We enjoy reports such as yours
that prove again how little one needs to have fun cruising -
particularly in Mexico. A 31-footer that's more than 30 years
old, plus a few bits of cruising gear, are all - along with sailing
skills - that it takes.
Witch of Endor -
The Pleasures Of Ecuador
Since not much has been written about cruising Ecuador - a Nevada-sized
country named after the fact that the equator runs through the
capital - I thought I'd give it a shot. A small group of us West
Coast cruisers have been enjoying ourselves for a number of months
now here at Bahia de Caráquez, a little slice of paradise
just south of the equator. 'Bahia' is a major Ecuadorian beach
resort, with pleasant parks, clean beaches, and a nice river
estuary. It's a laid-back town with all the basics, the locals
are friendly - and the local women are very friendly.
Budget cruisers - which includes almost all of us - will find
Bahia much to their liking. Delicious breakfasts typically run
about $1, while very large lunches go for 80 cents to $1.50.
The expensive lunches consist of a choice of big bowls of soup;
a choice of a fish, chicken or beef entree; as well as rice,
salad, a slice of fried banana, and a glass of freshly squeezed
juice. Do you know of any other beach resort where you can get
such a bargain? A beer the size of two normal cans of beer goes
for 70 cents. A big bag of veggies at the mercado runs about
a dollar, while fresh ground hamburger is $1.20/lb. A big bag
of laundry is $5, while photocopies are just a couple of pennies
each. Membership in the yacht club is $15/month per boat, and
a mooring at Puerto Amistad is currently $100/month. Cruisers
feel the moorings are safe enough to leave their boats while
they do inland trips, and some have left their boats unattended
for six months or more.
In addition to being a pleasant town, Bahia has a nice central
market and shops that carry most things a cruiser might normally
need. For instance, the local auto supply store got me an 8D
battery from Manta overnight. What you can't find in Bahia, you
can certainly find an hour's bus ride away at Puerto Viejo, where
there is a big gringo-style supermarket and hardware store in
an upscale mall. If you're looking for machine shops and electronic
repairs, you can find them in Manta, just another 15 miles away
Speaking of Puerto Amistad, last night the city council approved
a plan to greatly increase the facilities for visiting mariners.
The marina will be expanded, with the addition of up to 100 new
moorings, a muelle for Med-tying, and a dinghy dock. In addition,
there will be a new clubhouse, bar/restaurant, showers, laundry
facilities, and a playground. This is pretty exciting for all
concerned, as yachties will appreciate the facilities and the
locals will like the jobs the facilities will create. The first
phase - moorings, restaurant complex, and dinghy dock - is expected
to be completed by November of this year. All this is in addition
to the Bahia YC, which has a dinghy dock, swimming pool, soon-to-be-installed
hot and cold showers, and large communal areas for telling sea-stories,
hoisting cervezas, and mending sails. Bahia wants to put itself
on the map for cruisers heading to the Galapagos - or just wanting
to escape the rainy summer months in Central America.
According to Bob Wilhelm of the San Diego-based Islander 37 Viva!
and the unofficial ex-mayor of Bahia, the rainy season just ended
here. Well, I've been around since March 10, and until recently
hadn't seen a drop the entire time. Once the season was over,
we got a few sprinkles every day for a week or so, and actually
had one day of drizzle. But we haven't had any thunder boomers,
and no serious wind to speak of. So the rainy season here isn't
Having the use of an economical mooring in a secure harbor, I
decided to take a 3,000-mile trip inland, mostly via 12 buses.
I visited Quito, the capital; Mitad del Mundo, a little town
known as 'the middle of the world'; Banos; Cuzco, via Lima; Machupicchu;
Lago Titicaca, which at 12,500 feet, is the highest navigable
lake in the world; and Guayaquil. What a trip!
The Inca ruins, including Machupichu, were incredible. The Andes
defy description, so you have to experience them firsthand. The
bus is the best - if not the most comfortable - way to see everything.
The malecon in Guayaquil is a sight to behold. The reed islands
on Lago Titicaca are worth a visit, but perhaps the most interesting
thing there is the Peruvian ship Yavari, which plys the lake's
waters. One of the oldest iron ships still in service, she was
fabricated in England in the 1860s, shipped in pieces to Arica,
Peru, carried 250 miles over peaks as high as 15,500 feet, and
reassembled in Puno! Originally she was fueled with dried llama
dung, but now she has a diesel engine.
I also took a cab ride to the bus station in Guayaquil that was
a classic. 'Beat up' doesn't begin to describe the cab. It had
no headliner, no trim panels on the doors, an old Hang Ten pedal
for the gas, and so much slop in the steering that when the driver
wanted to turn the car, he had to spin the steering wheel a complete
turn before it took effect. I kept waiting for the U-joints to
get me in the butt.
Ecuador will not be mistaken for the French or Italian Rivieras,
but it's really nice. According to the locals, Bahia is where
'the Big Guy' comes for his vacations. I gotta believe it.
- steve 6/15/04
Readers - Fun fact: One third of Ecuador
is Amazonian rainforest.
Boat Name Withheld -
(Withheld By Request)
[This Changes is continued from the July issue.}
Bummed out that the local authorities wouldn't let us use our
dinghy because of security reasons, we visited Astillero Marbella,
the boatyard for Cuba's Varadero Marina. Although it was only
a half-mile from the marina as the crow flies, a sailboat would
have to make a 20-mile trip around the peninsula to get there
because of the long-broken drawbridge.
The yard has a Travel-Lift able to hoist boats with up to about
25-foot beam, a storage area with gravel ground cover, and about
six foreign boats in dry storage. The yard has about 15 workers
and two uniformed security guards. They quoted us about $10 U.S.
for labor, which is inexpensive. But since our cat was over 25
feet wide, it would have to be hauled with two cranes - at a
cost of $2,000 out and back in. That was too much.
Our next stop was Marina Gaviota at the eastern end of the peninsula,
which has a large marine rail to service the fleet of 10 Fountaine-Pajot
daysailing cats, the largest of which is 80 feet with a 30-foot
beam. They quoted us $200 to haul our cat in and out, plus $10
U.S./hour for labor, $13 per layday on the slipway, and a 78%
(!) markup on materials. Obviously, you want to bring your own
materials. All the cats looked bristol to us, a testimony to
the workmanship of the Cubans. Since the charges seemed reasonable,
we made an appointment to haul the cat a week later to have the
Before any work could begin, a permit was needed from the port
captain in Cardenas. So the skipper made a 20-mile round-trip
ride by bike to get the $15 permit. It was a bit of an arduous
trip thanks to the hilly terrain, but the sightseeing was great,
as was mingling with Cubans outside of the normal tourist situations.
The highway to Cardenas and the city streets were nicely paved
and lined with sidewalks and bike paths. The harbor facilities
and official buildings were in obvious need of repair, but some
of the historic architecture had been grandiosely restored.
The Cubans had basic homes that were clean and in good repair,
and all were hooked up to water and electricity. Nobody looked
ragged or as though they were going hungry. Occasionally, a young
man would shout: "Hey friend, gimme a dollar!" But
that seemed like more of a challenge to capitalist pigs than
aggressive begging. We'd seen more beggars on Duval Street in
Many Cubans spoke fluent English, German, French, or Italian.
They seemed to be unusually well-educated for a Third World country.
While waiting for our date in the boatyard, we cruised Cayos
Blancos, a pleasant group of small islands 10 miles distant,
where the cats take tourists on daytrips. The tourists pay $75
each for a day of snorkeling, swimming, dolphin encounters, sunbathing,
and lunch. This $75 is about twice what a Cuban cat captain makes
per month in Castro's 'workers' paradise'.
Does Communism equal equality? Not in Cuba. Just like all the
other socialist countries I've been to, Cuba has a two-tiered
society and economy. One runs quite inexpensively on the peso
- the local currency - and food ration coupons. The other runs
on hard currencies - such as dollars and euros earned in trade,
from tourism, or wired from relatives in the U.S. Indeed, remittances
from the States total $1.2 billion a year - and are the second
largest part of Cuba's GNP.
If you want to buy something of value and quality in Cuba - brand-name
food, appliances, electronics, and so forth - you have to have
hard currency. We tried to buy eggs in a miserable peso store
that had dusty and empty shelves, but they only had four. But
with hard currency, we could buy all the eggs we wanted at the
marina's spotless chandlery.
Fresh fruits and veggies were only available to us directly from
the producers - and they were a great deal. An organic farm and
a small veggie garden at the edge of town sold us a shopping
bag full of freshly harvested produce for about 50 cents. In
addition, a 50-lb bag of potatoes cost just $2 U.S. We purchased
dozens of reasonably good 8-inch tomato & cheese pizzas for
20 cents from the charcoal grill on the side of the street.
All prices in the official hard currency stores seemed equal
to or higher than back in the States. The only cheap commodities
were liquor and tobacco - including capitalist pig brands such
as Marlboro and Johnny Walker. There seems to be a pattern in
all totalitarian states I've been to - keep the masses drunk
and entertained, and they'll keep quiet. We bought a couple of
cigs from the marina restaurant at $1 each, which was probably
a sucker price. And then the waiter hustled us for the dinner
tab by about 600%. It served us right for not asking to see a
written menu before ordering.
We left Varadero and anchored between a shallow reef and the
largest of the Cayo Blancos just as the tourist cats started
arriving. The cats anchored on the reef and everybody went into
the water with snorkel gear. But there was nothing to see! The
coral looked dead to us, and we'd seen more fish back in the
marina. We think the problem is that fertilizers and insecticides
that have been outlawed in other countries for generations are
still being used on the farmlands around the Bay of Cardenas.
In addition, there's a large oil refinery that was belching soot
and sulphurous fumes. Lastly, there was deep dredging in progress.
Whatever the cause, we see more fish, dolphins, and sea birds
in Florida's Intracoastal Waterway than we did at this Cuban
After the snorkeling session, the eight cats were beached on
the island, and their passengers disembarked for a seafood lunch
cooked and served out in the open next to thatched-roof palapas.
The Cuban boat crews graciously invited us to join them and the
passengers in a meal of shrimp, rice and beans, to be washed
down with Buccanero beer. Rum punch also flowed freely. It seemed
that half of the guests were from Canada and Britain, and the
other half from Europe and Central America. They seemed to be
happy campers, enjoying the food, drink, and dancing to Cuban
rhythms. "No American tourists," was the response we
got from several when we asked what they liked best about Cuba.
Many of the women went topless, and there was even some nude
sunbathing at the end of the beach. Try that in Daytona Beach
in the Land of the Free. Freedom does seem to be a relative concept.
The Cuban staff for these expeditions were neatly uniformed,
well-groomed, well-spoken in several languages, and polite and
professional. We were impressed with the seamanship of the cat
crews, as just two men handled everything from anchoring to flying
the chute to docking. When leaving the island, they also took
all the garbage - and even the human sewage - back to the mainland.
What a contrast to Malibu or Bali.
When we showed up at the Gaviota Boatyard for our haulout, we
saw that one of the tourist cats was on the slipway that was
to be reserved for us. The marina manager - fluent in English
and German, and with an MBA earned in Germany - had neglected
to inform us that it was time for the cat fleet to be inspected.
There wouldn't be an opportunity for us to be hauled "for
a few days". He did offer us the chance to tie up at their
new floating docks for 35/cents/ft/night, which was a bargain
by Florida standards. We didn't mind too much, since the place
was nicer and less expensive than Marina Darsena. We didn't mind,
that is, until dusk when millions of mosquitos from the mangroves
emerged to attack us.
Figuring this was a good time to go to town to look for entertainment,
we asked one of the gate guards where we could meet some of the
famed Cuban chicas. The guard just laughed. He told us that there
had been a big propaganda drive about the dangers of AIDS, and
that there was a big effort to keep Cuban women from fraternizing
with foreigners. As such, there wouldn't be many Cuban woman
around, and they no longer knocked on the hulls of foreign boats
in the marinas.
We didn't quite believe the guard, so we took the tourist shuttle
into town, and followed the instructions in our copy of The World
Sex Guide. The book said a good place to meet Cuban woman was
at one of the many Rapidos, which are open-air eateries that
are Cuba's version of U.S. fast-food chains. These establishments
are quite nice, frequented by tourists and locals alike, but
only accept U.S. dollars. The fare was hot dogs, hamburgers,
and omelets, all about $1 each, and all served on real plates
with real utensils. Beer was 75 cents.
While enjoying our food and watching the people on the street,
we were soon accosted by three neatly dressed females: a young
woman, her old mother, and her small daughter. They didn't offer
anything, they just asked for money. Compared to most other Cubans,
they didn't look as though they needed it.
Our guidebook said that "heavy flirting" was common
at establishments such as the fast food place. Even though the
place was crowded with locals and tourists, we didn't notice
anything like that. About a half an hour later, a plain-looking
woman boldly sat down at our table and said, "Hi, Peter!"
When we told her that none of us was named Peter, she replied,
"Oh well, who would like to have sex for $30?" We weren't
interested, but asked for more details. She explained that she
and her girlfriends could take care of each of us for the equivalent
of the average monthly salary in Cuba. As she continued to explain
things, she became weirdly agitated, as though she might be on
meth or coke.
After she left, we asked a waitress about what looked like security
cameras. We were told that they were indeed security cameras,
and the police monitored them via the internet!
The next morning, we bumped into the young female doctor who
had given us our initial health exams when we arrived. She asked
if we had any medical complaints. When the skipper said he had
a backache from stress, the doctor replied, "Well, how about
a good massage after I finish with the vaccinations of the boatyard
workers. Say 11 a.m. on your yacht?"
Sure enough, the doctora arrived at 10:55 a.m., black bag in
hand. She and the captain disappeared into his quarters, where
he was given a full body oil massage - and more. They both emerged
an hour later, smiling and flushed.
"Who is next?" she asked. One by one, the three of
us that made up the rest of the crew were 'de-stressed' - if
you catch my drift. The Cuban doctor didn't ask for any money
- after all, all medical services in Cuba are free. Nonetheless,
we chipped in some candies for her kids, some hotel soaps, shampoos,
and lotions, some surplus medical supplies, and $10 U.S. She
thanked us profusely, and promised to return for more treatments
"until we all felt better".
But she never showed up again. Maybe the secret police called
her in. Maybe nothing happened at all. If there was some way
we could contact her, we'd be happy to return to Cuba, let her
steal our dinghy, then wait 12 miles offshore to pick her up
and take her to freedom.
As for the work on our cat, the marina manager kept telling us
mañana. After a week, the skipper got fed up and we left
All in all, our trip to Cuba had pretty much been a waste of
time and money. It cost us about $550 in fees and provisioning,
and our experience had been somewhat less than we had expected.
We'd hoped to find something like our pre-war visits to Yugoslavia,
which was then known as the 'Sexiest Socialist Republic'. Yugoslavia
had a well-developed marine tourism infrastructure, rock-bottom
costs, and a friendly population, and we were free to move about
and do as we pleased.
What we encountered in Cuba was a police state worse than we
had feared, with paranoia and state control in evidence everywhere.
The people were clean, well-fed, and well-dressed - but they
didn't smile much. There were police checkpoints on every bridge
and on many streets. They stopped cars, pedestrians, and bicycles
at random. Locals were very careful about what they said, but
we heard the same line several times: "You should have been
here before the start of the war with Iraq. Now we all worry
that Cuba will be invaded next."
We talked to cruisers who came back from Marina Hemingway just
outside of Havana, who reported a similar experience. One said
there was just one American-flagged vessel in the whole marina.
In the week that I've written this, a total of 25 Cubans entrusted
their lives to three different makeshift vessels to try to cross
the Florida Straits to freedom in the U.S. Fifteen of them made
it to American shores and freedom. Five were plucked from the
Gulfstream without food and water, and having not made it to
American soil, were returned to Cuba by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Five others were lost at sea. May their souls rest in peace.
- anonymous 6/15/04
More trouble on the north coast of South America. Last month
we reported that Bob Hunall and Dana Cannon, vets of last year's
Ha-Ha aboard their Hudson 50 Doña Lee, had their
boat boarded and were shot at by pirates in the river at Baranquilla,
Colombia. Fortunately, neither was badly hurt. This month we
regret to have to report a much more serious attack on two French
cruising boats, this time in Venezuela. The information comes
from Georges (EL5MG) in a message translated by Gaston and Fran
aboard Relax in Cartagena.
The attack is said to have taken place on the evening of June
14th. Two French yachts, the 42-ft Tursiops and the 26-ft
Les Chouans, were anchored at Medina on the Paria Peninsula,
seven miles east of Puerto Santos. There were two people aboard
Tursiops, and a man named Fred, who intended to meet his
wife a short time later at Los Testigos, alone aboard Les
Chouans. Fred's body was found with a bullet hole to the
head. To this date, nobody has heard from Tursiops, so
cruisers are fearing the worst.
In an open letter to several major sailing magazines, Craig Owings,
longtime Commodore of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club and Panama-based
cruiser aboard the CSY 44 Pogo II, wrote the following,
which we have edited for clarity:
"The problem nowadays is that cruisers are generally fools.
They assume that the world plays by the same rules they do -
which it doesn't. The reality is that cruisers need to remain
alert, deny strangers access to their boats, and prepare to defend
themselves. Access is the main issue. Many cruisers foolishly
let cayucos approach their boats as though all of them were manned
by harmless locals. Another problem is that, in our world of
rapid communication, one fool can go into an area that's dangerous
because of thieves and rebels, not have a problem, then put out
the word to the rest of the cruising world that it's a safe place.
The next thing you know, the rest of the cruising world has followed,
and there are problems. I've been living and sailing in this
area for many years, and in my estimation the coasts of Venezuela
and Colombia are very dangerous. Cruisers avoided those coasts
for years for the very reason that the most recent shooting reinforces
- they ain't safe! These are the real wild west areas, where
life is cheap and people survive by force alone. The latest news
is that the Venezuelan Coast Guard has asked cruising yachts
to avoid the Paria Peninsula. I assume this means the Venezuelan
government is not in control of the area."
We at Latitude think the situation in Venezuela and Colombia
has become worse in the last year or so. As such, the only place
we'd now stop in Colombia is Cartagena. In Venezuela, we wouldn't
cruise east of Puerto La Cruz - and would also be cautious everywhere
on the mainland.
And now we learn that there are problems with piracy off the
Pacific Coast of Colombia: "After three months in Central
America, we decided it was time to change continents," report
Mike and Catherine Whitby of the Vancouver, B.C.-based Contessa
38 Breila, "so we are headed from Panama to Bahia
Caraquez, Ecuador. This morning's Panama Pacific Net had more
reports of another piracy. Latitude has already reported
that a Japanese cruising boat was boarded and robbed in March
while on her way from Panama to the Galapagos. Well, in late
May the yacht Chameleon was chased by what's believed to be the
same pirate boat, a 40- to 50-footer with a dark hull and white
cabin. Fortunately, Chameleon was a big enough boat to outrun
the pirate vessel in heavy seas. Then just this week the Florida-based
catamaran Sandpiper was chased by the same boat. Once
again the cat was quick enough to avoid being boarded during
four attempts in four hours. All three of the pirate attacks
or attempted attacks occurred in the same general area - west
of Isla Malpelo, a Colombian Nature Reserve that's on the rhumbline
from Balboa to the Galapagos. By the way, we have been trying
all the emergency frequencies on the HF radio - and have gotten
no response - even though we know there is a U.S. Navy ship patrolling
the Gulf of Panama. Our goal is to contact them so the U.S. and
Ecuadorian navies can be advised of the piracy problem. In closing,
we want to say that we found Panama to be the most enjoyable
of the Central American countries - fabulous people, deserted
islands and anchorages, and great provisioning and repairs in
Despite these reports of piracy, the world of cruising remains
extremely safe, particularly when you're on your boat. For example,
everywhere on the West Coast from Alaska to Panama is safe. On
a boat, the entire East Coast and the Carribean are safe except
for Colombia and Venezuela. The South Pacific is safe except
for Papua New Guinea. The Med is safe. Scandinavia is safe. Thailand
has no pirates. Even the Red Sea proper has been safe to date.
So don't let a few incidents in well-known problem spots give
you a distorted picture of the reality of cruising.
"We checked out of Panama bound for Ecuador with a stop
at the Perlas Islands to clean the bottom," report John
and Linda Kelly of the Seattle-based Sirena 38 Hawkeye.
"But there's a Colombian island, Isla Malpelo - which would
seem to translate to 'bad hair' - on the 223° rhumbline,
that is restricted. We were 20 miles to the northwest of the
island when somebody got on the radio and said, "Vessel
four miles north of Isla Melpelo, this is a restricted area.
Change course immediately!" We checked our charts and GPS
to confirm that we weren't the vessel they were referring to.
The final transmission we heard was, "If you do not leave
this restricted area, we will open fire!" So those Colombians
don't mess around with mariners in restricted areas."
Hmmm, this Isla Malpelo would seem to be the same place that
is possibly a base for the pirate vessel mentioned earlier in
Cruise Notes. What's up with that?
"We've just sailed to Hamilton Island, which is located
in Australia's beautiful Whitsunday Islands, and is the ultimate
holiday destination on the Great Barrier Reef," reports
Max Young of the San Francisco-based Perry 47/50 Reflections.
"I'd always heard it was very expensive to moor here, so
I thought we'd only be able to stay for 10 minutes. But it turned
out to be $80 Aussie - or $58 U.S. That's not too bad, and was
certainly worth the money. Hamilton Island Race Week, a major
sailing event in Oz that attracts 200 boats, starts in two weeks.
On another subject, remember the uproar about Australia's new
'fumigation policy'? A number of foreign cruising boats, especially
wooden ones, did have to be fumigated, and the cost really was
outrageous. But thanks to pressure by Aussie marina owners, the
government in Canberra reviewed the policy and then reversed
it. The 'Ugly American' piece you published four months ago was
right on the mark, but I've actually seen very few of those idiots.
All in all, the cruisers out here are some of the best goodwill
ambassadors the United States has. I could give you story after
story of the fine things cruisers have done, especially in areas
such as Tonga, the Cooks, and other outer islands."
Last June, Rolly Rosic stopped by our offices to report that
by that time he was supposed to have met his brother Nesha in
Tonga with a new transmission for his 55-ft ferro ketch Stella
Rosa. But he hadn't heard from him since he left Tahiti five
weeks before. At Rolly's request, we put a notice on 'Lectronic
Latitude for anyone who might have seen Nesha, who was now
long overdue, to call his brother. Nesha, who is 52, had bought
a ferrocement hull, finished her off in Sausalito, and sailed
to Cabo, where he spent about 18 months on a mooring. Three months
ago, he left for the Marquesas and Tahiti, arriving safely in
The good news is that Nesha and Stella Rosa are safe.
"This is my irresponsible brother," said Rolly. "He
told me that he'd picked up two crew, they'd sailed to some deserted
island, and had been having too much fun to continue on or contact
me. They stayed for three weeks! When I got mad, he said that
I would have understood if I had been there. He's in Tonga now.
In fact, I just had to send him $500 by Western Union - which
cost $43! If he wasn't family . . . "
Oops! Last month's report on Greg White's Mischief being
sailed to Hawaii last summer was written by Judie Braaten, not
Judie Bratten - who asks what the best place is in Hawaii to
find Latitudes. The best place is the Ko Olina Marina
- but get there early because they go very fast.
"We're now anchored in Apia, Western Samoa, as there's been
another change in our cruising plans," report Bob and Laurie
Bechler, with Arnold the Wonder Dog, aboard the Edmonds, Washington-based
Gulfstar 44 Sisiutl. "Our new Fleming windvane steered
the entire 1,300-mile rhumbline course from Palmyra. It was one
of our best passages to date. We changed our destination to American
Samoa because it has a reputation for being 'the place' to reprovision
in the South Pacific, as well as a good place to have parts flown
in by Hawaiian Airlines. The downside was American Samoa is known
for not being a garden spot. It turned out that the reprovisioning
was good - but not really any different from Western Samoa. What
was true is that Pago Pago is about as far from a garden spot
as one can get. The harbor is dirty, and in certain wind conditions
the smell from the tuna canneries is overpowering. There are
blatant boat break-ins and dinghy thefts. It also seems to be
a dead-end for many cruising dreams, as some of the boats in
the harbor are no longer capable of safely going to sea again.
We tied up to a concrete wharf that had cockroaches the size
of wharf rats! It cost us $147 to check in - including a $30
fee for the $250 bond for our liveaboard dog. If you spread the
fees over the amount of money you might 'save' in reprovisioning,
American Samoa turns out not to be such a bargain."
"Although Apia, Western Samoa, is only 90 miles from Pago
Pago in American Samoa, they are worlds apart," the Bechlers
continue. "The harbor is beautiful, even for an industrial
port, and we only had to pay $25 in fees. You anchor in 30 feet
of water and are well-protected from the prevailing winds. There
is a secure dinghy landing with showers. A short walk takes you
into town, which has all the stores you could want. Everything
is clean and well-maintained. Every day the local police band
has a parade through the streets, and an entertaining policeman
directs traffic from the middle of the main intersection. We
recommend skipping American Samoa in favor of Western Samoa."
As reported in this month's Letters, there was a terrible
fire at Tripui Resort in Puerto Escondido, Baja, that destroyed
the entire complex. Were it not for the bravery of several cruisers
at Marina de La Paz, there could have been a nasty fire there,
too. According to Mary Shroyer of Marina de La Paz, after somebody
ran the engine on the sailboat Paw Prints, then left cleaning
solvent-soaked rags in the hot engine room, it caught fire. "The
heroes were Dick of Corazon de Acero and Carlos Solis of WaterWorks.
Bill and Barb Steagall's Inspiration was next to the burning
vessel, but it could not be approached from the land. So Dick
swam over to the burning boat and untied her, allowing Carlos
to tow her away from the other boats. When there no longer seemed
to be a danger of an explosion, Dick and Carlos towed Paw
Prints across the channel to burn out on El Mogote. I'm
told that the boat's newly painted mast was blistered all the
way to the top. Fire is certainly every marina owner's most dreaded
It doesn't cost any more than that? Joyce Clinton of the Tahoe
area tells us she's about to buy back her old trimaran Galadriel,
currently in Hawaii. Busy working, she looked into having the
boat shipped to California on a Matson Line ship. "When
they quoted me $55,480," she says, "I laughed and cried
at the same time."
"It has been Sunday here for two days," reports the
diarist aboard Blair and Joan Grinols' Vallejo-based 46-ft Capricorn
Cat in the South Pacific. "It happened because we crossed
back over the International Dateline and gained another day.
This morning I think we're going to attempt to leave the Manu'a
Islands, which is a small group that is part of American Samoa.
We'd anchored at the only anchorage on Ta'u. The Lonely Planet
guide describes these islands as having some of the most
stunning scenery in either Samoa, and I can see why. They have
soaring cliffs, white sandy beaches, beautiful volcanic mountains,
and crystal-clear waters. The island, most of which is a national
park, has some of the highest sea cliffs in the world. We stumbled
upon these islands on Day Three of our 10-day trip to Christmas
Island. I had been starting to become claustrophobic, so when
I awoke in the morning to see that it was cloudy and rough again,
my heart sank. When I came up to say good morning to my dad,
Blair, I dreamily gazed out the front windows - and saw an island
ahead. I thought I was seeing things. And so, at first, did my
dad. "Yes, honey," he said, "those are just clouds.
No, wait a minute! Hey, those are islands. Where are we?"
We quickly pulled out the charts and found out they were the
Manu'a Islands. It only took one look from the rest of us for
Blair to realize that he'd better pull over and stop until there
was a break in the weather. If not, there was going to be a mutiny.
So we spent a delightful day lying in the sun and swimming in
the warm waters. Stephanie dropped her snorkel overboard in 35
feet of water, so Blair free dove to the bottom to pick it up.
Not bad for a man 71!
Update: As we went to press, we received word that Blair and
Joan had set sail from Hawaii to San Francisco.
"On behalf of Hemingway International YC of Cuba,"
our old amigo Commodore Jose Escrich wrote us just before the
Fourth of July, "I have the great pleasure to transmit our
most sincere congratulations to all members of the honorable
American boating family on the occasion of the 228th birthday
of the United States of America. From the bottom of our hearts,
we wish you a future of peace, prosperity, and well-being. We
at the Hemingway International YC are proud of the friendly relations
we have with the American boating community, whose members will
always be welcomed here with love and respect."
We appreciate Señor Escrich's Fourth of July best wishes.
When we took Big O to Cuba 10 years ago, we were indeed
welcomed with love and respect at the Hemingway YC. If we were
to return today, we're sure it would be the same. The big obstacle
to yachties visting Cuba has become the Bush administration's
announcements that they are cracking down on any American yachts
that visit Cuba. We think this is a policy blunder, as the more
interaction between Americans and Cubans, the better it will
be for everyone! In any event, thank you, Jose, for from the
bottom of our hearts, we wish nothing but a future of peace,
prosperity - and personal freedom - for all the good people of
the lovely island of Cuba.
"I have a confession to make," writes Dana LeTourneau
of the Ventura-based Valiant 40 Paradiso, now in La Paz.
"I absconded with a bundle of the March issues from a San
Diego chandelry to pass out to fellow cruisers in La Paz. I'd
actually only planned on taking four or five copies, but Pete
Caras - of the Ventura-based, Alden-designed Foxen - who,
along with his wife Tracy, would crew for my wife Judy and me
on the trip south, suggested I take a whole bundle "because
it will stow better on the boat." We both knew that there
were folks in Baja who hadn't seen a Latitude in quite
some time, but what I didn't know was that having a current Latitude
in hand would be a golden passport to introductions and invites
for evening drinks. Every issue was gone in a heartbeat."
We love it when folks help with our out-of-the-country distribution.
And a Latitude usually is good for a drink or two in foreign
ports. For instance, George Perrochet of the cruiser-friendly
Bahia Luminos Beach Resort and Hotel in Costa Rica, wrote, "no
fights broke out over who got to read the current issue of Latitude
first, but competition for access to it was fierce." By
the way, Pete 'take a whole bundle' Caras, is the only person
besides the Wanderer to have been a Grand Poobah of a Ha-Ha.
He supervised the second one in '95.
"Our boat is now up the river at little Punta Mutis on the
Pacific side of Panama, and we've taken a one-hour bus ride into
Santiago," report Dave Smith and Angie Deglandon of the
Seattle-based Passport 40 Magic Carpet Ride. "We've
visited several great anchorages in the last three months, but
by far the best was Isla Coiba, which is both a national park
and the largest of Panama's many islands. We also especially
enjoyed Isla Jicarita, which is unspoiled and, except for an
occasional fishing boat, uninhabited. We did some diving and
found the water to be extremely clear and the coral incredible
- it was like being inside an aquarium. We dove 47 feet down
to our anchor. It was fascinating to see how the anchor lays
and sets, and how the chain drags thru the sand, leaving a trail,
as the wind direction changes over the course of several days.
We later made the 12-hour trip to Punta Mutis, a village up a
mainland river, where we needed to buy fuel and provisions. We'd
been down to rice and peanut butter - and actually had been that
way for about three months! As we were leaving to start that
passage, a squall came through. How hard does it rain in Panama?
I'd left the forward hatch open just a crack, but when I went
down below to secure a bottle of wine and other potential debris,
it was as though someone had stuck a hose through the hatch and
turned it on full blast! Our trip up the river was much more
straightforward than going up the river to Puerto Pedregal. It
was low tide, so we did run aground a couple of times, but Dave
always got us off fairly easily. Once we found a good place to
anchor at Punta Mutis, we jumped in the dinghy and headed to
the nearest restaurant/bar. We may stay a few days, as we've
met a young Panamanian entrepenuer who recently opened up a restaurant
and is promoting tourism in this tiny fishing town."
If you read this month's Sightings, you know that Mexico is making
moves - albeit in fits and starts - to become a more attractive
tourist destination to mariners. On July 1, there was more evidence
of this just outside of La Paz when, with unusual ceremony -
airplanes, three other ships, bands, a PT boat, and many dignitaries
- a cleaned and gutted 200-ft former Mexican Navy ship was sunk
in 60 feet of water south of Isla Ballena off Espiritu Santo.
The purpose? To create a fish refuge and dive site. It would
be nice if California could get on the ball in creating new sea
life habitats, wouldn't it?
While attending the Heineken Regatta in the Caribbean aboard
Profligate last March, we raced against Rex Conn's 50-ft
Newick-designed high-performance trimaran Alacrity. But
not for long. For with Alacrity just behind us at the
start of the second leg of the first race, her brand new $150,000
carbon rig came tumbling down in spectacular fashion. As if the
loss of the mast wasn't bad enough, Conn faced the problem of
how to get the tri 1,300 miles back to the Annapolis area for
repairs. That's when Dave Culp's Kiteship Company came to the
rescue. Culp, the only one injured in the dismasting, makes kites
for sailboats. Using 450-, 1,000-, and 2,000-sq. ft. OutLeader
Kites, they made it from St. Martin to Still Pond, Maryland,
in just 9.5 days - and only five of them underway. The kites
propelled them for about 500 of the 1,361 miles, sometimes at
speeds as high as 8.5 knots. The rest of the time they motored,
burning a mere 97 gallons. For the complete story, see the July/August
issue of Multihulls magazine. Good luck getting the boat
going again, Rex, we look forward to sailing against you in another
Getting restless on Midway. The Midway Islands - yes, it's plural
- are located one-third of the way between Hawaii and Tokyo,
and are among the most remote in the world. The islands were
a U.S. military base until 1996, at which time the Midway Phoenix
Corp. and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service entered into a
cooperative agreement to make the pristine National Wildlife
Refuge a travel destination. But Midway is no Honolulu or Cabo
San Lucas. The resident population is 150 people, and no more
than 100 visitors are allowed at one time.
A number of years ago, Clyde Britt Finley of the Denver area
cruised his Peterson 44 Restless across the Pacific to
New Zealand. For the last four or five years, he's based the
boat out of Opua in the Bay of Islands. He'd join the boat for
cruising during the southern hemisphere summers, then leave the
boat there for the winters. This year it was time for a change.
In May, Finley set sail for Port Angeles, Washington. After stopping
to enjoy Fiji for several weeks, his plan was to sail to the
Pacific Northwest with an intermediate stop at Midway Islands
to get more water, fuel, and food. Before he left Fiji, Finley
placed three phone calls to Tim Bodeen, the Honolulu-based refuge
manager of Midway Atoll, to see if there would be any problem
with his stopping. As is par for the course with government officials
these days, nobody answered the phone calls.
After leaving Fiji, Finley received an email from Bodeen that
read: "After meeting with Department of Homeland Security
officials, it was determined that in order protect Midway and
U.S. interests and assets, all aircraft and vessels requesting
access to Midway must go through an official U.S. Port of Entry
prior to accessing Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. So
plan accordingly. In your case, you must pass through Customs,
Immigration, and so forth in one of the main Hawaiian Islands
before you will be allowed to access Midway." Unbelievable.
In other words, Finley was instructed to sail 1,000 miles out
of his way because the officials figured Midway was probably
up there with the Empire State Building, nuclear power plants,
and Disneyland as a primary terrorist target.
Throughout the trip, Finley's shoreside contact had been Tim
Rosen. At some point, one of the two of them decided to contact
Latitude to ask us what we thought Finley should do. We
have a slight antiauthoritarian streak, so the answer was obvious
- Finley should pretend he never received the email telling him
he had to go to Hawaii first, and simply show up at Midway. If
nothing else, he could claim that he had engine problems and
that combined with dwindling water and fuel supplies, made it
imperative for him to seek Midway as a port of refuge. As the
Mexicans say, it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
In answer to an additional query from Finley, we said, yes, we
were certain he woudn't be fined and his boat wouldn't be confiscated.
At the very worst, we figured Finley might be confined to his
boat for the duration of his stay.
Deciding to ignore Latitude's advice, Rosen called Bodeen
again on behalf of Finley. This time Rosen said Bodeen "was
very accommodating, and fully understanding of the difficulties
that would be created by not allowing Restless to stop
at Midway on a 'Dateline route' from Fiji to the mainland United
States." Bodeen told Rosen that from now on, all sailing
vessels unable to first clear into the Hawaiian Islands would
be permitted access to Midway, which meant that Restless
will not have to make her two-month passage to the Northwest
nonstop. So this is one bureaucratic problem that had a happy
ending. By the way, what work of fiction by a famous writer had
Midway Island as one of the central locales?
Welcome news out of Cabo San Lucas. Norma, the office manager
at Cabo Isle Marina, reports that they will be adding four 100-ft
slips in the near future, meaning the marina will soon have more
capacity than ever. You'll remember that they added about 800
feet of dock space in time for last year's Ha-Ha. Hopefully they'll
have even more space for this year's Ha-Ha fleet, but it's hard
to say. Right now the marina's reservations for powerboats planning
to spend the entire winter is greater than last year. So we'll
just have to see.
This just in from David Wilson, an expert on all matters having
to do with the Panama Canal: "Panama Canal Authority has
designed and budgeted a floating wet dock to take yachts through
the Canal. I will let you know when more details become available."
It's high time that an alternative way for yachts to get through
the Canal be proposed. The current system, where often times
a couple of small yachts take up the entire capacity of the Canal,
is inefficient. By the way, Wilson caught some glaring errors
that we made on a recent article about the Panama Canal. We'll
fess up to them next month.
If you're out cruising, Latitude readers would love to
hear from you. It's best to keep reports short, but don't forget:
who, what, where, when, and why. Your reports will keep cruising