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August 2011

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  With reports this month from Don Pedro on an eight-month South Pacific loop; from X in tiny Palau; from San Souci II on an all-Mexican Puddle Jump and return; from Dragonfly on building and cruising a 64-ft cat as a first boat; from Lazy Daze on adventures in Maui, Oahu, Molokai and Lanai with a three-woman crew; from Carinthia on surfing in Fiji, from Azure II in Greece; and Cruise Notes.

Don Pedro — Cheoy Lee 42
Olivier and Corine LeDiouris
Eight-Month Pacific Loop
(Oyster Point)

As journalists, we have a fetish for facts, so we lapped up the following major passage facts Olivier and Corine provided about their loop through the Pacific, one that unusually saw them sail directly from San Francisco to the Marquesas:

San Francisco to Nuku Hiva, Marquesas. The rhumbline is 2,966 miles, but they actually sailed 3,170 miles in 25 days, averaging 4.94 knots on the rhumbline distance.

Tongareva, to Kiribati, to Honolulu. The combined rhumbline distance is 1,800 miles, which the couple completed in 16 days, 18 hours, meaning an average speed of 4.48 knots.

Honolulu to Drakes's Bay. It took Don Pedro 26 days and 3 hours to cover 2,060 rhumbline miles at an average of 3.29 knots.

For the entire trip, it took 78 days and 20 hours to cover 8,165 rhumbline miles at an average of 4.32 knots.

Unfortunately, Olivier and Corine were the latest in a long line of cruisers to be underwhelmed by the infamous 'aloha' spirit of the state of Hawaii employees who run the marinas.

"After our spending two nights anchored next to the entrance of Honolulu's Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, Keehi Lagoon was re-opened after the tsunami threat had passed. We entered the harbor and anchored to the west of the water-skiing zone, which was very calm and sheltered. How cool! And then we got the best night's sleep we'd had in a long time.

"The next day was U.S. Customs day, and the day after that it was Agriculture inspection day. The Ag officer was so clean that he put on gloves to watch Corine clean the fridge. But by the time he left, we were 'domestic' again.

"We also checked with the harbormaster at Keehi, who found us a dock. What a mess that was, at least compared to the wonderful way we were welcomed in Tahiti. There, the guy from the Yacht Club of Tahiti came out to show us what mooring to take. When we visited him ashore later, he said, "Welcome to Tahiti. Here is the key to the showers. It's 900 Central Pacific Francs a day, and you can stay as long as you want. Pay when you leave." And that was it.

"But after anchoring in Keehi Lagoon, we came ashore to see the harbormaster to get a dinghy landing permit. He said we couldn't anchor where we were because it was 'against the rules' — although Coast Pilot, Vol 7, identified it as an anchorage. Then our boat had to be inspected. The harbormaster came along for the inspection, and reproached us for having a bell with a 5-inch diameter instead of the legal 8-inch diameter. That makes perfect sense when you realize that the bell is a fog signal, and the number of foggy days per year in the Islands is zero.

"Then, after being certified and promising that we'd get a bigger bell, the paperwork started. It took about half an hour between all the copies, photocopies, signatures, stamps, permits, authorizations and so forth. The funny thing about the inspection is that we'd just successfully cruised many thousands of miles of the Pacific, while 95% of the other boats in Keehi were either wrecks or piles of junk. But they probably all have the right size bell. Our charming harbormaster later came by to tell us that we couldn't fold a torn sail on the lawn! We didn't have a permit for it.

"It only took us five days to clear in so we could come and go as we wanted, and get to rediscover 'the land of the free'. For the first time in many months we were confronted with countless signs that said things such as: 'Keep Out,' 'Restricted Access,' 'Violators will be prosecuted,' 'Forbidden Access,' 'Government Property, Keep Out.' We'd forgotten about all that, and it sure seemed weird."

— olivier 07/05/11

X — Santa Cruz 50
David Addleman
Hanging in Palau/Belau

After eight months, X and her master are still in the tiny Republic of Palau, 500 miles to the east of the Philippines. I still have no plan. But I like it that way.

Recently, the perfect weather has given way to cooler, wetter, windy, tropical depression stuff, and this will continue for a couple of more months. The typhoons that frequently bash the Philippines and SE Asia are born here, and usually move away to the northwest before growing to destructive strength. Plus, there are some absolutely bomb-proof anchorages here at Palau.

The main cruiser anchorage at the Royal Belau YC can be seen in the photo above. That's X in the far back center. But for bad weather, I have a mooring tucked in by the catamarans on the far left. Between this anchorage and the sea are several turns around more islands and then the distant fringing reef. So there are few worries about typhoons here.

On the other hand, it's dangerous to sail to any of the other Micronesian islands during the summer. Few offer much protection, so even unnamed tropical depressions can be dangerous. Only routes south to the equator are recommended now, so we make regular trips to the many islands and beaches inside Palau's fringing reef.

When many good friends sailed to distant ports a few months ago, and things started to drag a bit, I began to remember all the great people and times in Mexico. So I considered sailing for North America, seeing friends, then doing the next Ha-Ha. Then a very fun woman sailed in for a few weeks, and thanks to all the antics, hilarity, Corona, tequila and good times, it was like being back in Mexico. The YC even had a Cinco de Mayo potluck party! But she sailed away a few weeks ago, so I may start thinking of sailing onward again. Perhaps to a regatta in the Philippines.

According to the Palau locals, five to seven cruising boats usually visit each year. But my haphazard list shows more than 30 boats since I arrived in November, and there are still about 10 of us here now. (I would have provided the names, boat names, boat types and hailing ports, just as Latitude likes, but that would require diligent office work, and I just don't do that anymore.)

There seem to be several reasons for the big increase in the number of cruising boats. First, the Philippines have become a more popular cruising destination, and Palau is a great stop along the way. Second, Palau itself is becoming popular as a cruising destination. A few years ago the fees and regulations discouraged some cruisers from visiting, but thanks to the diligent lobbying efforts of Dermott Keane of Sam's Tours, the fees and regulations are now much less onerous. A third reason may be that some cruisers prefer not to visit parts of Indonesia on their way to the Philippines and East Asia, and decide to hop along the islands of Micronesia.

Palau is a good place to provision, as the markets — for better or worse — are supplied directly from the U.S. It's also home to skilled craftsmen for metal work, canvas, electrical, diesel and such. Unfortunately, there are no cruiser-friendly haulout facilities. Getting stuff shipped from the U.S. is simple, quick and cheap, because the U.S. Postal Service operates the post office in Palau. Shipments seem to be duty free.

I received 800 pounds of dinghy, kayaks, paddles, scuba gear, new sails, parts, and such from San Francisco via container ship for $400 in four weeks. Triple B Forwarding of San Leandro are the agents to use in California, and since they are freight forwarders, I was able to save considerable California sales taxes on the purchases. Port clearance and Customs required a sheaf of papers and a few hours of visiting offices, but the only cost was a $5 wharf fee. Everything is made easy by the local YC staff and helpful cruiser members.

[I hope Latitude readers don't mind, but my name is Gary, and I'd like to butt into David's Changes for a minute. I singlehandedly cruise Anthea, which is an 8 Meter — like Hank Easom's Yucca — that was built 82 years ago. New arrivals to Palau frequently run into the reefs while entering the harbor, and complain that the buoys don't make any sense. A few days ago I spotted David painting them. After painting some red and others green, he decided that the green "looked better" with the tropical flora. So he painted some of the red ones green. So if you hit a reef here, you know who to blame.]

Actually, I'm helping the yacht club refurbish a buoy. We had a red buoy and a green light. Rather than confuse everyone by putting a green light on a red buoy, we decided to paint the red buoy green, then put the green light on it. Palau is IALA A, meaning "red right 'reaving,'" but newcomers seem to regularly hit the reef no matter what color the buoys or reefs are.

— david 07/14/11

San Souci II — Jeanneau 54
Pedro Fernandez de Valle, Crew
Mexican Puddle Jump
(La Cruz)

Pedro Fernandez de Valle, whose dream it was to build the 400-berth Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz, says he now has a much better understanding of his customers' wants and needs. This after doing the Puddle Jump from Mexico to the Marquesas and Tahiti as part of an all-Mexican crew aboard his uncle Enrique Aldrete's Jeanneau 54.

"We left April 3 and arrived 20.5 days later in the Marquesas," Pedro said during an interview at the marina's yacht club. One of our goals had been to plant a Mexican flag on Clipperton Atoll, which had been stolen from Mexico by the French, but two days out we had to change our plans. We had nice downwind sailing all the way to the Marquesas, although we did have a gust as high as 35 knots and seas as big as 15 feet. Our biggest problem was with our furling mainsail. One of our crew had to go aloft halfway across to try to unjam it. Thanks to the rolling sea, he got beaten like a pinata!

"The crossing was a very special experience for all of us," continued Pedro. "For in addition to adventure, it gave us all time to think about ourselves and what we were doing with our lives. It also gave us energy to come back and continue our paths in life, although each of us was coming back a little different than when we had left. As for myself, I didn't want to come back so soon. I wanted to continue south."

"And as a marina owner, I also found it very helpful to experience things from a boatowner's perspective. After being away from land for a week or so, I now appreciate how important it is to be able to hit land and find the things you need. For example, nice bathrooms and showers, groceries, laundry service, a bank and the internet. You've been out of touch, and you want to get back in touch. And," Pedro laughs again, "you want to do it the 'American way', which means right away!"

Since the Marina Riviera Nayarit opened a few years ago, tenants have been clamoring for a pool to jump into after sailing or working on their boats in the tropical conditions. Pedro totally gets it now. "By the time the winter season starts in November, we'll have a pool at our little beach club next to the water's edge. We'll also have a very casual place for cruisers to eat, drink and watch the sunset next to the pool and the ocean."

Of course, not all places — such as the remote Marquesas — are able to provide all these amenities. "There was no marina at Nuku Hiva," says Pedro, "and while the officials were very friendly, services were few and far between. For instance, we arrived with U.S. dollars, figuring we'd be able to exchange them for Central Pacific Francs. It turned out that the only place we could exchange money was at the Chinese market, where we'd have to buy cheap items with big bills to get some Central Pacific Francs in change." As one might assume, the exchange rate wasn't the best in the world. "It was a Chinese market," Pedro laughs.

The traditional path back to the West Coast from the Tahiti is to the north and over the top of the Pacific High, which owner Aldrete figured his crew would take. But his skipper decided to try the direct route, despite the fact it would be 3,000 miles mostly on the wind. It took the crew of four eight days to get back to the Marquesas, then a combination of six days of motoring and 22 days of sailing to reach Cabo San Lucas. While it was a long and hard sail, they still figured it saved them a month over the more traditional route. Did we mention the crew didn't have a functioning autopilot for the last month of their delivery back to Puerto Vallarta?

— latitude/rs 07/08/11

Dragonfly — Hughes 65 Cat
Al and Jill Wigginton
Building and Cruising a Big Cat
(Indianapolis, IA / Livermore, CA)

[Editor's note: In '96, when we were interested in having a Hughes 60/63 catamaran built, we responded to an ad by a company building them in Indianapolis, Indiana, 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean. So we flew to the Hoosier State, inspected the two-person operation in the barn-like facility and what had been completed — which was primarily two hulls and some bulkheads. Given that the builder had never built a boat before, and had hardly even sailed before, we decided it was a riskier proposition than we were willing to get involved with.

Fast forward 15 years. One morning we were on the hook off Fort Oscar, St. Barth, and something seemed awfully familiar about the big catamaran anchored in front of us. After a minute or so, it dawned on us. Although most of the cat couldn't have looked more different than our
Profligate, the Hughes 60/63 that we eventually had built by DENCHO in Long Beach, the distinctive shape of the hulls and her superb bridgedeck clearance strongly suggested that she had been built from the same hull plans. So we dinghied over and said 'hello.'

The captain gave us a long and quizzical look before saying, "You're not Richard, are you?" Sure enough, it was Al Wigginton, who had been building the cat we saw in Indianapolis. Indeed, he was standing on the transom steps of the cat he'd built. Al brought us up to speed on their cat project and what he and Jill had been up to in the ensuing decade-and-a-half.]

We started building Dragonfly in July of '95. In fact, we decided that we'd build a mold for the hulls, too, because many people suggested that the mold would have value in that we could sell/rent it after we'd built our cat. What we didn't realize was that all of the 'hull kickers' seemed to want either a 57-ft or 62-ft cat, not a 60-ft cat. So I answered many phone calls, emails and faxes, basically to entertain a bunch of people who would probably never build a boat, but who enjoyed explaining why a 57-ft or 62-ft cat, but not a 60-ft cat, would be just the right size for them. Ultimately, we would rent the mold to a boatbuilder in Florida, who used it to build a couple of day-charter boats.

We started the hull and beam construction in March of '96, with the assistance of one helper. He had experience in composite work, having been an airframe technician in the Air Force. It took us almost six months to complete the plug and mold, by which time we had plenty of practice vacuum-bagging small parts, bulkheads, cabin sole panels, and so forth.

I was sure tense the day that we vacuum bagged the first of the two hulls. Fortunately, the epoxy resin we were using had a long open time, and it was only 55 degrees. This allowed the crew — my son-in-law, a friend, an employee, and myself — to get it finished and suck the bag down before the resin gelled or my heart stopped. Jill was the most important person that day, because she could hear the high pitched sound of any air leaks in the bag.

We completed most of the major components in November of '96, just after we were visited by the publisher of Latitude 38. We then transported the whole kit and kaboodle to Florida on three A&B Transport boat trailers, a 28-ft moving van, and a 14-ft box van that was my workshop. We set up shop at a do-it-yourself marina in Tarpon Springs, where the final assembly and finish too place. I hired one worker in Florida who stayed with us until the boat was launched in July of '08. One of the frustrations with assembling the big cat outdoors was the time it took for the dew to dry out in the morning, and the times we got stopped by rain — hopefully before I'd begun doing any epoxy work.

My initial completion estimate of 2+ years was definitely too optimistic. The elapsed construction time was three years, including building the mold, the latter being something that I wouldn't do again. The project also ran about 30% over my cost estimate, but who was counting? Fortunately, I found sources for glass and resin from companies that supplied the mobile home and vehicle manufacturers, where their volume is high and their prices reasonable. I also got OEM prices on many components, such as hatches, winches, the windlass, and so forth.

This was the first boat I ever built, and believe it or not, I found the whole experience to be a lot of fun. I really enjoyed watching it all come together. If I were younger, I'd definitely be interested in building another cat. Of course, that would necessitate my finding another wife.

Some readers may be surprised to learn that prior to committing to the huge boatbuilding project, Jill's and my sailing experience consisted of a one-week charter and a few hours on a Hobie Cat and on a Laser. Our two primary considerations were that our cat be able to handle rough weather, and that she could be sailed by just the two of us. We chose the Kurt Hughes 60 design, and found Kurt to be very helpful during the construction process.

Just as we hoped, Dragonfly can take rough weather, and she's easy for just Jill and me to handle ­— in part because all the sail controls are at the helm station in the cockpit. Although it might seem counterintuitive to some, we've found that Dragonfly's immense size makes her easier, not harder, for the two of us to handle. Thanks to her size, she's more stable than smaller boats, and thus easier on the crew. In fact, if we were going to build another cat, she would be the same size or larger. What, some might wonder, about the high cost of taking such a big boat into a marina? Well, we rarely stay in marinas because we don't see the point. So having such a large and stable boat is an advantage.

After a couple of years of cruising the boat six months each year, there were a few things we decided to change. One was to add 4 ½ feet to the transom to make a convenient swim/landing platform. Another was to put a hardtop over the cockpit. The original soft-top had started to leak, and we needed to have a place to mount our 1,000 watts of solar panels.

If we had to do it again, we'd replace the 47-hp Yanmar diesels with 100-hp Yanmars, which only weigh about 100 pounds more. Their additional power would be great when the wind is blowing hard and we're trying to maneuver in close quarters or motor into a sea. We'd also love to have a rotating mast.

Dragonfly's original sails were Vectran, which gave great performance, but lasted less than four years before they started to delaminate. Since new Vectran or Spectra sails are out of our budget, we've had to go with less expensive Dacron, which doesn't give as good performance.

We sail from November through May or June, mostly in the Caribbean. During the hurricane season we leave Dragonfly in either Guatemala's Rio Dulce or Tarpon Springs, Florida. We do some charters each winter, either heading to or from the Caribbean, to help defray the cost of operating the boat.

We have family in Indianapolis and Livermore, which is where we spend the most time playing with grandchildren and riding bikes. We love California's dry heat.

— al 04/15/11

Lazy Daze — Ericson 41
Rick Daniels and Crew
High Times In Hawaii
(San Diego)

The adventures don't seem to stop for me over here in Hawaii. Last year I helped Ted and Veronique — whom the Wanderer knows from the Caribbean — put their huge Catana 52 Vérité on a mooring off Lahaina after they sailed up from the South Pacific. They stayed around for three or four months, during which time we were neighbors and then became friends. Ted always had two or three lists of stuff that needed to be done, so I started working on their boat.

They eventually sailed to Oahu, but Ted made arrangements for me to meet them there in early May to help them get ready to sail back to Fiji. So I set sail for Oahu via Molokai's Kaunakakai Harbor on my Ericson 41. I didn't arrive of Waikiki until well after dark for a couple of reasons. First, the often nasty Molokai Channel was kind, maybe a little too kind, in that there was hardly any wind, waves or current. Second, my engine overheated while I was varnishing my main hatch while crossing the channel. So I had to shut the engine down and water it. The engine light came back on when I started it again, so I found myself having to sail in three to five knots of wind on the darkest night — except for the lights of Honolulu glaring out at me — you can imagine.

I finally located the channel markers for the Ala Wai — and was dismayed to see that only two of them were lit. And these lights are for a channel that cuts through the middle of the reef. I made two passes under sail to check it out, but decided it would be smarter if I didn't try to enter. So I sailed a little offshore and called my friend Dave, who was moored off Maui, and asked him to check the charts for a nearby safe harbor.

"Too bad they don't have Boat/U.S. tow service here in Hawaii," he said while looking for his charts. Bingo! Not only do they have Boat/U.S. in Honolulu — although not Maui — I was a paid-up Gold Card-carrying member. So I called them, and just 30 minutes later they towed me into the Ala Wai and got me safely into a slip. Although sailing down the channel didn't look so hazardous in the light of the next day, I'm still glad I hadn't tried to sail in at night.

Anyway, Ted picked up the tab for me to berth at the Waikiki YC, and we worked 12 hours a day on his lists. And we finished every project! He was amazed. On the last day we moved his boat to an anchorage off Waikiki to clean the bottoms and scrub the props. He and Veronique sailed the next day. I've since received an email from Veronique saying they arrived in Fiji after a fast passage. Verite is a fast cat, and Ted doesn't slow down. He doesn't even slow down for fish; he just drags them in!

With the work done, I began looking for crew for the return to Maui, because I wanted to have a good time and make lots of stops. Fortunately, my engine problem turned out to be electrical rather than mechanical, so I was soon ready to go. I looked at the Hawaii online crew list, and talked to a young woman named Kanani. She couldn't make the trip, but it turned out she had three gals — two from Germany and one from Canada — couch surfing at her place who wanted to go. They brought all the food and a ukulele, so we got off to a good start. We stopped at Halealono Harbor on the west end of Molokai, which is just an old barge harbor, so we had that wild part of the island to ourselves, complete with a private beach for hiking. We slept under the stars, which were brilliant because there was no ambient light. Sonkoy played the uke and my guitar, and sang so sweetly that I almost cried.

The next day we tried to battle our way upwind against 15-20 knots of wind, and even worse, a wild 4-knot current. My boat worked hard for six hours toward Kaunakakai Harbor at the east end of Molokai, but we just couldn't make it against the current, which looked like the flood tide roaring in under the Gate. So we retreated back to Lono Harbor and had another pleasant evening. German girls sure can cook, and if you throw in a French Canadian, you won't believe what comes out of the galley.

At dawn the next day we took off for Lanai. Two hours later we were in 35 knots of wind with seas to 10 feet. The girls did great, helping me reef the main and then making crepes for breakfast. Unfortunately, I got whacked by the boom while taking up the slack, and cracked a rib. It was a very uncomfortable injury, but it could have been worse.

We made it to Manele Bay, my favorite place here in the Islands. We met two local guys, and they threw us a Hawaiian BBQ at the harbor. We got up early the next day to look for the dolphins, but they were a no-show, so we hiked up to Sweetheart Rock. The next morning we went to Hupalo Beach at 6 a.m., and sure enough, the dolphins showed up in force. There had to be 80 to 100 of them swimming around us for hours. After awhile, it seemed as though we were just accepted as part of their group. These were spinner dolphins, which spent about as much time in the air as they do in the water. It was a fantastic experience the girls and I will remember forever.

The girls couldn't believe the way their trip was turning out, and that afternoon I treated them to lunch at the Four Seasons because it was Rebekka's birthday. As you might expect, the Four Seasons was a very nice place and the food was delicious. And for a five-star restaurant, lunch wasn't too expensive.

We set sail for Lahaina at 11 p.m., as I decided I wasn't so keen on sailing the island channels during the afternoon anymore. Usually it's a four to six-hour crossing, but Lazy Daze flew on a beam reach, and we reached the outer marker at Lahaina Harbor in a little over three hours — my fastest time ever.

The girls stayed on the boat for a few more days, checking out Maui and learning to surf. Then it was time for them to fly home. So with big hugs all around, I said goodbye to Sonkoy, Rebekka and Vanessa — my best crew ever! As you can imagine, they are welcome on Lazy Daze anytime. As for me, I can't wait to do another Maui to Oahu to Maui cruise. But first, Kauai!

— rick 07/05/11

Carinthia — Lagoon 440
Kurt Roll, Crew
Killer Surf In Fiji
(San Diego / Las Vegas)

We had a great seven-day passage from Opua, New Zealand to Fiji aboard Dietmar Petutschnig and Suzanne Dubose's Lagoon 440. I met the couple during the '09 Ha-Ha, and sailed across the Pacific with them last spring. Unusually, we had tradewinds all the way up to Fiji, and therefore only used a quarter of a tank of fuel.

We explored all of the Mamanukas, Yasawas and Kadavu Islands, with lots of stops back at the Musket Cove YC for partying, surfing and regrouping. Of all the places I've sailed in the world, Fiji takes the cake. The climate is perfect, the food is plentiful, delicious, and inexpensive, there's world class surfing and diving, and the people are crazy nice. In addition it's downright beautiful — as long as you leave the mainland and get to the outer islands.

This past week, Musket Cove was abuzz with the news that a huge swell was coming up from the Tasman Sea. World class surfers flew in from around the world. The swell peaked at Cloudbreak on July 12th and 13th, with faces estimated to be 20 to 30 feet. Kelly Slater, 10 times the world surfing champ, said that it was the biggest he's ever seen it. The waves, by the way, break over a shallow coral reef.

I had the awesome experience of taking Carinthia out with a boatload of Musket Cove locals for both days to film and watch the most amazing waves I've ever seen in person. To be motoring around not far from where these huge waves were breaking was a very moving experience.

After four months down here, I've developed a case of 'Bula Brain', and am flying home tomorrow.

— kurt 07/14/11

Azure II — Leopard 47
The Pimentel Family
Cruising Greece

Our friends the Knox-Whites, being intrepid travelers, joined in the adventure of going where the wind blows in Greece. This meant it was uncertain where we would end up after a week. It turned out to be Astypalea.

The island turned out to be a relaxing place to enjoy what the Lonely Planet recommended for the "alternative traveller". With only a smattering of tourists, and a number of other yachties, it felt like a step back in time. There were old Greek ladies in black sitting in doorways, and men driving scooters loaded down with their family and various appliances.

We spent our last day lounging in a taverna with the Knox-Whites, with the kids playing board games. Hanging out with friends from home felt like having part of home on our boats. We, of course, were happy to give them a crash course in real cruising situations. Like when John saved the day noticing that our cat was floating out of the bay. Sure enough, we'd dragged anchor. After frustratingly re-anchoring about 10 times in windy conditions, we finally had to move to a less weedy spot. This was the first time our fantastic Rochna anchor let us down, but only because the weeds were in charge. With all of their hard-earned knowledge, John and Jen had a new appreciation for the evening entertainment of watching other yachties anchor.

Somehow the Knox-Whites figured out how to get back to Athens from Astypalea by ferry. It required that they get one of the town's three taxis to pick them up at 3:35 a.m. Naturally the taxi was 25 minutes late, so they only caught their 4:10 a.m. ferry by seconds. You've got to love Greece because the 4:10 ferry was delayed three hours.
The wind eased up the day the Knox- Whites left. With 40 knots predicated, we quickly made a 12-hour passage to the island of Simi, where we've been sitting out quite a blow.

This is RJ, and I'm here to report on the Simi Monastery. One of the most interesting rituals we have experienced on our trip is the act of making an offering. Many people travel to various Greek Orthodox monasteries to give these offerings, just as in ancient times, in the hope their prayers will be answered.

When we finally got to the chapel part of the large monastery on Simi, we saw a small room decorated with extremely detailed woodwork and about six or seven paintings protected by glass. People would come into this room and cross themselves multiple times before kissing one of the paintings and sometimes leaving a small offering. Most of these people went to the seven-foot tall painting of Saint Michael, the patron saint of the island and monastery.

The most popular offerings were gold chains, crosses, or very thin plates of various metals with a boy, girl, or a body part someone wanted healed stamped on it. We even saw one lady set down a model sailboat in front of the large painting, as St. Michael is also the patron saint of sailors. Before placing any of these offerings, however, they must be checked and approved by one of the two men overseeing the room.

Another part of the monastery was a museum, which held some of the best offerings. Entering the museum, you see a roped-off area with about 50 model sailboats that have been offered to the monastery. These ranged from old sloops to modern sailboats. The next rooms held an extreme variety of objects, such as four elephant tusks carved with scenes of the lives of African people, and ornate swords with golden thread inlaid in the scabbards. There were also many more modern offerings, such as trophies for everything from soccer to sailing races — even a trophy for bodybuilding. It all seemed a little strange to us.

Simi, the last Greek island that we would visit, was a safe place to sit out the big wind — although with 40 knots whipping through the rigging, we didn't sleep well for two days. One of the nearby boats dragged anchor and washed up on the beach, but was pulled off without too much damage.

When the wind eventually subsided, we cruised from the missionary bay to the town. The houses by the town of Simi looked like little Parthenons in ice cream flavor colors. This was one of those Med-moor-to-the-quay towns that I find to be fun, although they come with all the potential anchoring challenges, such as crossed and tangled anchor line. As it turned out, we were moored between two other catamarans: Mojito from Belize and Solmaria from New Zealand — both with their own teenagers aboard. We all hung out for the night and had a grand time — kids on one boat, adults on another. It seems all the kid boats we meet are going in different directions, but it was great to share experiences even if only for a few hours.

It wasn't far to an amazingly clear water anchorage, and adding to the international flavor of the island was the fact that we met the Romanian folks aboard Rosa, a fabulous mega sailboat, with two kids about the same age as our kids. Our boys got treated to jet-ski rides, tubing, and fancy snacks — and now can find Romania on a map.

Looking off in the distance, I can see Turkey. So guess where we're headed next.

— the pimentels 07/07/11

Cruise Notes:

Hauling and hurricanes. Our plan was to have Profligate hauled at La Cruz Shipyard in La Cruz — one of the few yards between Panama and the Napa Valley with a Travel-Lift that can lift a boat with a 30-ft beam — at the end of June and then be hauling butt up the coast of Baja in early July before the Eastern Pacific hurricane season got into full swing. Well, it took a little longer than anticipated to get the Micron 66 bottom paint shipped down from the States. Then every time the yard got the boot stripes taped off for repainting, there would be a bout of torrential rain — not unusual at this time of year — and they'd have to do the taping again and postpone the painting. By the time Profligate was back in the water and the weather looked good, we faced the unpleasant possibility of having to complete this issue of Latitude with uncertain internet access while holed up somewhere on the coast of Baja. So we waited until we got the issue done. And just when we were ready to head north from Puerto Vallarta, Passage Weather forecast — six days out ­— a hurricane to sweep up the mainland coast, pass by Cabo, and continue darn near all the way to Turtle Bay! Nothing was showing at the Unisys Hurricane site about such a storm, but we figured our insurance company would appreciate our not trying to run before a named storm. So as we write this, it's the third week in July, and we're still in Mexico.
The good news is that nobody told us how great Banderas Bay is in the summer. Sure, it's been warm and humid, but usually not that warm or that humid. We swim about five times a day, and no matter if we're boogie-boarding in the ocean 'til 9 p.m. or swimming in the unheated pool at 1 am, there's never a hint of chill. In that sense, it's dreamlike.

The fun thing about the summer weather here is that it's constantly changing. Frequently there are blue skies in the morning, then a tremendous build up of white, grey and black clouds in the afternoon, followed by spectacular lightning and thunder, and torrential rain in the late afternoon that floods all the streets, with clearing a few hours later. The pattern is repeated over and over. And there have been periods of epic south swells, with so many Punta Mita spots firing that there was never a crowd at any of the many breaks. If you're like us and do warm better than cold, you wouldn't be in a rush to head back to California either.

"Glad you've discovered the summer on Banderas Bay is not horrible as some people make it out to be," writes John Foy of the Alameda-based Catalina 42 Destiny, who a few weeks before had been wearing fleece at noon in San Diego. "Gilly and I stayed down there for the last three summers, and August and September are more or less the same as June and July. I'm emailing you from Harbor Reef, Catalina, where it's livable but cool — to say nothing of how cold the water is. On the other hand, it's our first time back in four years, and just our time here in Cherry Cove has been worth the Baja Bash it took to get here. But nothing is better than Mexico, even in the summer. I just bought a beer for $5. Ouch! I'm ready for warm weather, warm water, and 12 peso — $1.10 U.S. — Coronas on the beach."

It's a bit of a late start in the season for inspirational circumnavigator-to-be Jack van Ommen of the Gig Harbor, WA-based Naja 29 Fleetwood. "I should be getting the mast back up and finishing the last 300 miles of the Danube under sail. What awaits me — winding through the Danube delta as it branches into the Black Sea — should be exciting. I expect to be in Istanbul in early August and will spend some time there. After that, I'll stop at some of the islands in Eastern Greece and then head across the Turkish archipelago. By the way, Rousse, Bulgaria, has been one of the most scenic stops of my long voyage."

For those wondering what a circumnavigator from the Northwest might be doing with his boat in Bulgaria, van Ommen, who is in his mid-70s, has thrown in an unusual Amsterdam-to-Black Sea leg. Since setting sail from Alameda in February of '05, he has sailed 34,000 miles and visited 43 countries with his little boat. According to his May and June '10 interviews with Latitude, van Ommen has been doing it all while still setting aside $1,000 a month from his meagre social security check! Could anyone be living a much richer life than this former bankrupt millionaire?

Jim Fair, a longtime Northern California sailor and vet of the '08 Singlehanded TransPac, and Linda Powers, of the Berkeley-based Outbound 46 Chesapeake, had a little medical emergency in Tahiti recently. "Linda snagged her toenail last night and almost ripped it off her foot. We had to make a trip to the emergency room, where they reattached it. Linda's stitches come out in two weeks. The taxi fare to hospital was more expensive than the bill from the emergency room — which says something about U.S. medical care."

Unusually, Jim and Linda started their Pacific Puddle Jump from Peru. After a stop in the Galapagos, they had a "long but easy" 3,000-mile trip to the Marquesas, which they completed in 20 days. They loved the anchorages of the Marquesas, and wished they hadn't had to push on to the Tuamotus and Tahiti so quickly.

It's tough times for Capt. Cactus, Betsy Bryan, and their beloved 97-ft tall ship schooner Talofa, which has been based in a number of ports in California and Mexico over the last four years. "We were on our way to the Panama Canal and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgins when Talofa suffered considerable damage off El Salvador. We were sailing in a light rain just after midnight when a sudden and violent storm hit us with winds to 50 knots, blowing out the main, jib and forestay sail. For the next hour we lay ahull, heeled over about 20 degrees. Roni, one of the crew, slipped while trying to help douse a sail and was hurt. When the wind abated, I was unable to start the engine, so we spent 36 hours limping to the 20-mile-distant commercial port of Acajutla. Two miles out we deployed the dinghy to tow Talofa in. Roni was taken ashore on a pilot boat, and was found to have a cracked hip. As if things couldn't get worse, I couldn't get the generator to start, the rest of the crew left this morning, and officials say we have to leave our mooring as soon as possible and move 50 miles down the coast to Bahia del Sol. Over the last four years, Talofa has played host to thousands of people and raised thousands of dollars for many charities. But now Betsy and I need help with Talofa. If you can assist with mechanical skills, money, or just as crew, please contact us at Historic Talofa — she's nearly 100 years old — belongs to everyone, so we can't lose her now!"

"I saw the Wanderer and Dona de Mallorca showing off stand-up dinghying on page 139 of the May issue," writes Jim Coggan of the Tiburon-based Schumacher 40 Auspice, which is currently in the South Pacific. "Well, allow me to introduce the real king and queen of stand-up dinghying, Shelly and Jane DeRidder, who have been standing up in the dinghy they designed and built since the Wanderer was toddling around in diapers. Originally from British Columbia, the couple have been sailing and living on Magic Dragon, the 40-ft flush deck twin-keel, light wood cutter they designed and built in the mid-'60s after doing some cruising in a 24-footer. Do the math and you'll see that they are almost members of the 'Over 50 Club'. The Dragon is loaded with all kinds of innovative ideas and inventions, such as a canard self-steering system, a lazarette designed to garage their Honda motorcycle, and a gimbal-mounted fridge. Shelly, who recently hit the big 8-0, and Jane continue living and cruising on Magic Dragon, in New Zealand's Bay of Islands. I don't know if Jane still wears her thong, but she swims every day. The couple are known and loved far and wide, and can tell sailing stories until the Kiwi bird flies."

Thanks for the reminder, Jim. We've written about the DeRidders a number of times over the years. Our favorite story is that they built their boat around a Honda Trail 90, and in the early days of their cruise actually rode the little thing from Acapulco to Mexico City high in the mountains. And this was long before the modern road was built. We most recently wrote about their putting their boat up for sale a couple of years ago:

"We've finally gotten around to putting Magic Dragon on the market, not because we want to sell her, but rather because after 42 years perhaps we need to start acting our age. Trouble is, this way of life will be difficult to replace with something as satisfying." We're glad to report that the DeRidders haven't found a buyer for their boat.

Over the many years that we've cruised in Mexico, we've marveled at how Mexican law, and Mexican law that pertains to maritime activities in particular, can be interpreted so differently from one port captain's district to another. For instance, if you clear out of La Paz or Cabo San Lucas for the United States, the fees come to about $230 U.S.. But when we spoke to Hector Jose Medina Martinez at the Port Captain's office in Nuevo Vallarta last month, he assured us that they only charged about $30 U.S. for an international clearance. Let's see, when Dona de Mallorca and we decide to have street tacos for dinner, our bill comes to $5 for both of us. So the difference in price between getting an international clearance from Nuevo Vallarta or getting one from La Paz or Cabo San Lucas is equivalent to about 50 dinners for two. That's something to chew on.

We were reminded of how comparatively simple navigation is along the West Coast of the United States when we read the posting from Scott Stolnitz of the Marina del Rey-based Switch 51 Beach House, who spent his Fourth of July negotiating his way down a narrow pass to Savusavu, Fiji:

"My crew Sandrine and I got up early for the 25-mile journey to Savusavu and the mini-gauntlet of Nasonisoni Pass. The pass is 1 ½ miles long and about 100 yards wide. For the most part, we couldn't see the reef on each side, but the chart was spot on. As we were heading east, the rising sun did nothing to help with visibility. But we went slowly and didn't have any problems. Water on the other side of the pass often runs against the current, which can create standing waves. We’ve talked to a few boats that got their decks awash as they came out the eastern side of the pass. But we hit it at the perfect time, as the trades weren't blowing hard and there were no standing waves."

Note to those headed south to Mexico this winter: There is more to Mexico than just the coast.

"This is our first season of cruising, and while we planned on going as far south as Z-town, we actually only made it as far as Bahia de Santiago," report Larry VanDerWall and Melanie Montilla of the Alameda-based Hardin 45 Hemisphere Dancer. "The problem was that we were just having too much fun and there were too many great things to see. So maybe we'll get farther south next year. This year's highlight was a 1500-mile road trip to see the church buried in lava by Volcan Paricutin, Colonial Patzcuaro, the ruins at Tzintzuntzan, the artistic city of Morelia, and the millions of monarch butterflies just above Zitacuaro. We ended up going through three different military checkpoints. While the men were heavily armed at each stop, they nonetheless showed professional courtesy. At the last checkpoint, they even had us fill out a survey on how they did! Tough on the problem and easy on the people — what a concept. Maybe the folks at San Diego Customs and Immigration could pick up a few pointers from their counterparts in Mexico."

Although the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) doesn't start until late November, all 225 slots were taken in March. U.S. entries are up substantially to this year to 18: Bandido, Oyster 625, Roger Soukup and Edwin Samayoa; Brizo, Beneteau 50, Lewis Wallner; Carrick, Rustler 42, Allan Dobson; Delphini, Catana 471, Emmanuel Soultanakis; Engelen, Sweden 40, Mathew Haarsager; Filizim, X-55, Mustafa Miharbi; Glass Slipper, Oyster 53, Thomas Carbaugh; Grateful Red, CC121, Ken Johnson; Integrity, Bavaria 37, Robert Gerlach; La Perla, Sly 48, Kent Baumann; Lady Eva, Najad 441, Oleg Sotenko; Lone Star, Amel 54, Craig Scott; Minaxi, Amel Super Maramu, Robert Linley; Oceanica, Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 52, George Champion; Phaedo, Gunboat 66, Paul Hand; and Sapphire II, Discovery 67, John O'Connor. Alas, they don't break down the entries out by home port, so we don't know how many, if any, are from the West Coast. We do know that Phaedo, which is actually owned by Lloyd Thornburg of St. Barth, has a great chance to take line honors. The lightest Gunboat 66 ever, with the tallest rig, she was hitting mid-20s in this spring's Caribbean 600. Check out her YouTube clips to see why it's not that comfortable to sail a big cat upwind in the teens. Reaching or running, however, are entirely different stories.

Anti-siphon valves are such simple little devices, but when they get clogged, they can cause gigantic problems. Just ask Jeff and Judy Wahl of the South Dakota-based Wellington 47 Island Mistress. After a few years in the Vallarta area, last spring the couple decided to head down the coast and across the pond. But the boat had an anti-siphon valve on a bilge pump system that, unfortunately, had an outlet below the waterline. So while the boat was briefly left in southern Mexico, water was pumped overboard, then sucked back in, then pumped overboard, then sucked back in — until the batteries were dead. At that point, water back-siphoned into the boat. The only reason she didn't sink is that she was built with a foam core like a Boston Whaler, and is virtually unsinkable. But all the systems were ruined. Originally unsure if they should take the insurance money and run, the Wahls decided to rebuild most of the old systems and leave a few others out. We're not sure why, but the diesel was taken all the way to Virginia — something like 3,000 miles — to be rebuilt. We wish them luck with the project.

Roger and Diana Frizzelle of the Alameda-based Catalina 470 Di's Dream have about a dozen Ha-Ha's between the two of them, and expected to do another one this fall. But then they got 'The Offer'. A few years ago, they sold a boat exactly like theirs to a Central Valley melon farmer of Greek extraction, who said he would only buy the boat if they would deliver her to Greece. So they did. It's been a few years, and the owner says the "rig needs tuning". So it's off to Greece, first class air tickets and expenses paid, to keep a former customer happy. They'll resume cruising Mexico this fall.

Missing the pictures? See the August 2011 eBook!


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