With reports this month from
Chewbacca in El Salvador; Tai
Tam II in Bocas del Toro, Panama; Southern
Cross at the end of a circumnavigation; Relativity
on the second half of the Eastern Med Yacht Rally; Witch
of Endor and Viva in Nicaragua;
Velella on the trip from New Zealand
to Fiji; and Cruise Notes.
Chewbacca - 30-Ft Crowther Cat
Bruce, April, Kendall & Quincy
Barillas, El Salvador
(Port Ludlow, Washington)
After leaving Chewbacca safely on a mooring in Barillas
Marina, El Salvador, we've come home to visit family and friends
and to resupply for another season of cruising. It's been 20
months since we sailed out the Gate, turned left, and joined
the 2000 Ha-Ha fleet. We spent the first year exploring the Mexican
mainland and summering in the Sea of Cortez. Our second season
was spent working our way down the Mexican coast and south to
El Salvador. Our learning never ends, but we thought some of
our observations might be helpful to first time cruisers. We'll
start with a list of our 'most valuable equipment'.
Autopilot - Hans, our autopilot, can steer Chewbacca better
than any human. He leaves us free to do all kinds of things while
we're sailing - check the boat, read, sleep, prepare meals, and
observe wildlife. He also allows us to get out of bad weather.
We are tired enough after 36 to 48-hour passages without having
had to steer all the time.
Adequate Ground Tackle - Being Bay Area daysailors, we didn't
give ground tackle the serious attention it deserves. After riding
out a surprise 45-knot Northern for a week, we realized that
our storm anchor set up was actually only adequate for our daily
anchoring! We can't emphasize enough how important it is to have
a big enough anchor and ground tackle, and knowing how to set
it properly. Knowing that you are securely attached to the bottom
is the key to a good night's sleep. We learned a lot about anchoring
during our seven months in the crystal clear waters of Baja.
Snorkeling on the anchor to make sure it's set is a common practice
among cruisers and has become part of our anchoring routine.
A Good GPS - And a backup. These are essential.
Radar - This was something we didn't add until this year, but
we like it. We've found that it makes our night watches safer
and less stressful.
Reliable Dinghy and Outboard - The necessity of a reliable dinghy
and outboard can't be emphasized enough. These are your 'wheels'
in every anchorage, and without them you are boat bound. Even
if you like to row, nothing beats being able to get to and from
your destination quickly. We replaced our 2 hp outboard early
in our cruise after we crashed and burned during our first attempt
at a beach landing at Turtle Bay. Size counts. A motor that can
get your dinghy up on a plane is not only fun, but also safer,
when you need to get out of the way of something. Our Fold-A-Bote
dinghy is rather unusual. It may be ugly, but it's proven to
be 'kid-proof', having withstood fish hooks, spear-gun tips,
and dragging it up rocky beaches.
Luxuries - This year we're adding some luxuries: A laptop, electronic
charts for passagemaking, a propane refrigerator, higher quality
binoculars, and two more golf cart batteries for additional amp
hours. After our first season, we had a better feel for how much
power we needed to generate.
It's the little things that count in cruising as well as in life.
Some 'little things' that make cruising in hot climates much
more pleasant are small but energy efficient fans, big wind scoops,
sun shades that cover as much deck space as possible, a bimini
to shade the cockpit, and good quality sun hats for keeping the
crew cool. A little thing that makes snorkeling in the Sea of
Cortez more enjoyable is a Lycra suit, which protects against
stings from little jellyfish. Other things we love include a
headlamp light so you don't have to hold a flashlight while working
on the foredeck at night, a fish finder type depthsounder that
shows the bottom contour as well as depth, a kitchen timer with
alarm for night watches, and a brass clip for the dinghy painter
to replace the 'knots' the kids used to tie.
As we continue to cruise, the more we refine our opinion of what
gear we need. Generally speaking, we're happy that we started
simple and then added gear as we've gone along.
In addition to learning about things that we needed, we learned
about stuff that we didn't need. For example, we brought too
much in the way of clothing, shoes, and toys. Our daughters Kendall
(9) and Quincy (7) play with the same toys on board Chewbacca
as they did on land, they just have fewer of them. They spend
hours building with Legos, reading books, listening to stories
on tapes, playing cards, building forts, playing dress-up, and
exploring the world around them. Kendall had her first dinghy
driving lesson this season, and enjoys the independence that
comes from having a kayak on board. She also has a boogie board
We hope all the new cruisers find cruising as fulfilling and
fun as we have. But don't leave home without a good dose of humor,
because when it gets scary - and it sometimes will - or you make
stupid mistakes - which are bound to happen - you'll need your
sense of humor to keep things in perspective.
- the winship family 8/3/02
II - Island Packet 40
Tom & Kathy Knueppel
Caribbean Side Of Panama
We've spent the last two months on the Caribbean side of Panama,
and believe that our fellow cruisers might be interested in our
observations on the Bocas del Toro region, which is up near the
Costa Rican border, and our experience here this summer.
We completed our Canal transit in record time on June 13th, leaving
at 6:30 a.m. from the Pedro Miguel Boat Club - which is on Miraflores
Lake inside the Canal - and arriving at Cristobal on the Atlantic
side at 2 p.m. in pouring rain. We dropped our hook in The Flats
outside the Panama Canal YC, which had no vacant slips. We stayed
at The Flats for two nights to put our boat back in order and
to get rid of the 14 tires we'd used as fenders during the transit.
We then headed past old Fort San Lorenzo at the mouth of the
Rio Chagres, and about 10 miles upriver. It was from this river
in 1671 that the notorious British pirate Henry Morgan gained
access to the interior of Panama, crossed to the Pacific side,
and sacked Panama City. When you go up the Rio Chagres, you are
surrounded by absolute nature: screaming howler monkeys, colorful
birds, crocodiles, and large fish - all in a fresh water environment.
It's just lovely. Before the U.S. pulled out of Panama, this
area was apparently used for jungle warfare training so there
are a number of trails. We stayed there in isolation for three
days of swimming, watching the incredible torrential downpours,
and worrying about the tremendous lightning strikes all around
Our next stop, the Rio Euero, was for just one night as the anchorage
was very rolly. So we continued on to Isla Escudo de Veraguas,
which is about 11 miles off the coast. This beautiful and isolated
island seems like something out of a picture book, but bad weather
again drove us out of the anchorage after just one day. So we
took refuge outside of Punta Allegre, a small town in Laguna
de Chiriqui consisting of about 10 stilt houses over the water
occupied by Guaymi Indians. We stayed in this secure location
for four days as there was unsettled weather associated with
a tropical wave. During this time, we enjoyed the attention of
the locals, who obviously don't get many visitors. One dugout
canoe after another arrived as we held court, exchanging pencils,
notebooks, money, food, candy, and cookies for fruit and sea
shells. Once we put out word that Kathy collects shells, there
was no end to what was brought to us. Even the small children
arrived bearing shells, so it was very sweet.
This northwest part of Panama is way off the beaten track, so
there aren't many tourists by land or sea. We got to enjoy empty
anchorages and unspoiled nature. We left again on June 23 and
entered Bahia Almirante - where Bocas de Toro is located - and
dropped anchor at Isla Bastimentos for two nights. We then motored
a couple of miles to anchor in front of Bocas del Toro, which
despite having just 7,000 residents, is the provincial capital.
Bocas was once the headquarters of the United Fruit Company during
its banana heyday. Bananas are still an export item, but eco-tourism,
whatever that means, is growing quickly.
We found Bocas del Toro to be a peaceful little place, with a
predominantly English-speaking population of West Indian descent.
The houses are of a gingerbread Georgian style much like that
of the Lesser Antilles. The Caribbean influence is very noticeable.
Bocas is located about 20 miles from the border with Costa Rica,
and is known for snorkeling, diving and surfing. There are many
small islands and reefs in the area with beaches. The town's
ambience is a cross between funky and slightly run down, and
there are many young people from all over the world. On nights
when it doesn't rain, many of the young people congregate around
the town square selling beads, shells and hash pipes, and Kuna
Indians set up tables to sell their traditional molas and bracelets.
There are several restaurants, our favorites being El Pescado,
which is upstairs beside the town square; the Laguna Hotel restaurant,
which is good for people watching; and the Refugio, at the southern
edge of town. Bocas has two Internet cafes. The overall pace
of life in Bocas is slow. If you walk down the middle of the
street, cars will pass around you - and the many dogs.
When you're cruising this part of Panama, you're pretty much
on your own. So either you do your own boat repairs or you have
to live with the problems. We did hear that someone works on
outboards and refrigeration, but there's nothing else.
For those cruisers looking to leave their boat in Panama for
a season or so, there aren't many choices. There is the Pedro
Miguel Boat Club on Miraflores Lake inside the Canal itself,
which has its own issues with water depth and safety. Then there
are the two marinas here in Bocas. We keep our boat at the 20+
slip Marina Carenero, which has good electricity, one marginal
shower and laundry, and a good restaurant - which unfortunately
was closed for the summer season. This marina offers a very thorough
boat maintenance program - washing the boat down, running the
engine, wiping the interior to deal with mildew, and whatever
special requests a boat owner might have. The marina is located
across the 300 yard channel from the town of Bocas on the small
island of Carenero - meaning Careening Cay. Indeed, Columbus
had his vessels repaired here. It's easy to get between the marina
and Bocas using your own dinghy or a panga water taxi.
The second marina, Bocas Marina, is on the other side of town
and a bit further out amongst the mangroves. But it's newer and
larger, has modern floating docks as opposed to pilings, and
has more and better facilities. It's possible to hire someone
in town to look after your boat. We are satisfied with Marina
Carenero, but Bocas Marina clearly attracts the majority of cruising
and other boats. Rates are $6/foot/month at Marina Carenero versus
$7/foot/month at Bocas Marina.
From everything we have heard and experienced, the Bocas area
is free of theft and appears to be quite peaceful. Provisioning
is limited however, as the only supermercado has limited supplies.
It's best to stock up in Colon. Another option is to take a water
taxi and then a bus to the town of Changuinola, which has a larger
supermercado, but it's pretty much a day trip.
There are two ways to fly in and out of Bocas. Either you can
take a small plane to Panama City - $49 each way as of July of
2000 - or take a combination of a water taxi and bus to get to
San Jose, Costa Rica. It's apparently less expensive to fly from
Costa Rica to the States than it is from Panama to the States.
You're not going to get cold in Panama. The daytime temperature
is around 85°-90°, with about the same percentage humidity.
The temperatures drop a bit in the evening. Thanks to the horrendous
thunder and lightning storms in the afternoon and/or evening,
boats don't get dusty. But mildew is a major problem! We've been
in a constant battle, washing and wiping things down with vinegar
to keep the mildew away. For folks planning to visit or leave
their boat here, the mildew problem should not be underestimated.
If you're looking for countless uncrowded anchorages in a jungle
setting, you could spend months here.
We will continue our journey in October, at which time we'll
make our way to the San Blas Islands.
- tom and kathy 9/01/02
Readers - Another option for leaving
a boat in Panama is the new Flamenco Marina on the Pacific side.
Cross - Peterson 44
Jack & Lynn McCarthy
We haven't written to Latitude very much since we left
San Francisco 8.5 years ago. It seems that we just drifted along
and never got around to it. When in Fiji, we did send you our
famous-all-over-the-Pacific article titled Mama Came Cruising.
It was never published so we were intimidated enough to never
write again. We're probably over sensitive, but not much - other
than the weather - bothered us while cruising.
Our unintended circumnavigation began in April of '94, when we
sailed north to British Columbia. Six months later, we headed
south to visit Mexico, Central America, Panama, and the San Blas
Islands. We then sailed northwest to the Rio Dulce in Guatemala
for five months, before heading back to Panama and into the Pacific
again to visit the Galapagos and many of the islands of the South
Pacific. We then continued on to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand,
Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Oman, Yemen, and the Red Sea. Once in
the Med, we visited Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Corsica,
Sardinia, the Balearics, Spain, and Gibraltar. After stopping
in the Canaries, we crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean, and
continued on to Florida, where we completed our circumnavigation
in May of this year. It had been a lifelong dream of ours to
go cruising - and perhaps a subconscious one to even circumnavigate.
Once we started cruising, we found it wasn't difficult to just
keep going all the way around.
The most unusual aspect of our trip was buddyboating with one
boat - Bob and Jeannie's Valiant 40 Max - for six of the
8.5 years. Like the circumnavigation, that's another thing that
we would have never planned on doing. In all our previous years
of cruising, we had never taken anyone with us or buddyboated
for very long. We always preferred just the two of us. Nonetheless,
we found ourselves buddyboating with Bob and Jeannie from Western
Samoa all the way to Florida.
We aren't sure why our buddyboating worked out so well, but our
ability to honor each other's privacy and not get competitive
or jealous when other cruisers came into the picture had something
to do with it. For whatever reason, our buddyboating just worked,
and we truly loved our association. We saw things through each
other's eyes, bolstered each other in tough times - such as the
deaths of our parents and some of theirs - shared family and
friends when they visited, and had four opinions instead of two
when it came to decisions. We didn't always see eye to eye, but
that was okay.
We didn't always stay together, either. While in New Zealand,
Australia, Turkey, Italy, and the Canaries, we went our separate
ways while travelling ashore. That meant we had two sets of stories
to share when we returned to our boats. But we did share a car
for one month travelling through Spain, France, England, and
up through Scotland before returning to Spain to make our way
to Gibraltar. We shared the news of 9/11 together while anchored
in Gibraltar, where people from all over the world stopped by
to let us know how bad they felt for us.
"Weren't you glad to be away from Bob and Jeannie for awhile?"
cruisers would ask us. On the contrary, we missed them like crazy
even though our cruising life continued on as normal, and we
were glad to see them again upon our or their return. We realize
that such an arrangement is not for everyone, but for us it was
a wonderful thing that added greatly to our cruise.
We've now temporarily gone our separate paths, as they are continuing
up the IntraCoastal Waterway of the East Coast as they try to
sell their boat. But we still talk once a week by phone. When
they sell their boat, they will build a home on Washington's
Olympic Peninsula - meaning they'll be close enough to come sailing
with us on Southern Cross. We're now home, waiting for
Dockwise Yacht Transport to deliver Southern Cross to
Vancouver, B.C., where she'll remain as our second home. We plan
to spend late spring and late summer aboard her each year, enjoying
the unforgettable sights of the Pacific Northwest.
The end of our circumnavigation didn't go as smoothly as we'd
expected, as during a visit back home in October Jack was discovered
to have severe coronary artery disease. He underwent a quadruple
bypass in January, but there were complications and his left
arm - from which an artery was harvested - was temporarily paralyzed.
He needed extensive physical therapy right at the time we needed
to be sailing Southern Cross from the Canary Islands across
the Atlantic to the Caribbean. Bob and Jeannie had already left
with a crew in early January, so it seemed hopeless that we'd
make it this year.
It was hard for Jack to concentrate on his recovery until one
morning when we got a call from our friend Larry Koop in Canada.
"I am enlisting as crew," he said, "whenever you
are ready to go." From that point on, Jack worked like crazy
on therapy to get ready - if possible - for the Atlantic crossing.
In addition, our dear friend Peter Brown, who was eager to make
an ocean crossing, decided that he would come along also. Although
we had to delay the start of this passage, Peter stood by us,
knowing that we needed his help.
On March 15, we packed up things at home, flew to the Canary
Islands, and retrieved Southern Cross from the marina
in San Sebastian, Gomera. Four days later, Peter, Larry, Jack
and I - Lynn - sailed for home. It was an unbelievable feeling
to be together, underway at last. We can never thank Peter and
Larry enough for being so patient and caring, and their act of
friendship will never be forgotten. To everyone else, including
their wives Weebee and Julie, we say 'thank you' for your support.
After 45,000 ocean miles, we're home and nesting - but looking
forward to getting Southern Cross settled in British Columbia
and having her at our disposal again.
One of the things we're looking forward to doing now is see the
United States, and visit the ham radio operators all over the
USA and Canada who helped us keep in touch and relayed our email
via Winlink. The advances of technology during our cruise made
an enormous difference in our ability to communicate with our
family, friends, and other cruisers. We gave each of our grandchildren
a chart of the Atlantic and were able to send them our positions
during the crossing. We also sent letters to their classes at
school and spoke with them when we came home. It kept us close
and eased the pain of having left them all for so long.
We would love to see weather guru Herb of Southbound II,
look him in the eye, and ask him how he does it. He carried us
from Mexico to Guatemala, across the Pacific, and across the
Atlantic. He was rarely wrong about the weather, and his forecasts
were always appreciated. To Grady and Ivy Williams, our ham and
Winlink gurus, we send our love and thanks. This old dinosaur
just needed extra TLC when it comes to all the techie stuff.
After nearly nine years of cruising, it's good to be home. Life
is good. We hope to be able to see all our old friends soon.
- jack and lynn 9/5/02
Jack and Lynn - Sorry we weren't able
to run your 'Mama Came Cruising' piece, but we just didn't have
room. Try us again with a report on the Pacific Northwest.
Relativity - Beneteau First 53
Hall & Wendy Palmer
Kemer Marina, Turkey
[Editor's Note: In the August Changes, Hall and Wendy
reported on the first four legs of the month long 1,500-mile,
13th Annual Eastern Med Yacht Rally. This is their report on
the second half of the event.]
Leg Five. Due to the tension over the tours, our social schedule
in Syria was less formal than elsewhere. Pleasantries were handled
on the quay with boxed chicken from a local fast food outlet,
and there were few speeches. Within hours of our return from
Palmyra we were underway to Jounieh, Lebanon, 105 miles down
the coast. Our host would be the yacht club, which is a large,
campus/country club-like institution formally identified as an
Automobile Touring Association.
Lebanon is quite different in tone from Syria, appearing much
more prosperous and less militant - but it is obvious that Syria
is still calling many of the shots. There was less military in
evidence near Beirut, but we sensed a Secret Police presence
in the marina staff. In downtown Beirut, one sees every sort
of shop and brand of merchandise that could be had in Paris or
Rome, and ATM machines disburse dollars as well as the local
currency. The supermarkets rival anything in the U.S., and there
is an active and sophisticated nightlife.
As we left the city to visit Baalbeck in the Bekaa Valley, things
seemed to change. Lebanon's flag, with the fist and rifle, was
seen less than Syria's flag. Once again, we rode along in buses,
preceded and followed by numerous heavily armed security guards
- only to find ourselves warmly welcomed at our destination by
the usual crowd of vendors and magnificent ancient ruins. Baalbeck
is one of the most ancient cities in the world, while Anjar is
a major tourist site, as it is the remains of an ancient city
that was exclusively Arab. All of this was a great contrast to
the Auto Club, with its pools and tennis courts, and a gourmet
dinner with the usual awards and speeches followed by late night
Leg Six. Three days after our arrival in Jounieh, we took off
for Haifa, Israel, on a night sail in close company. While Syria
patrols its coast, we still had our Turkish Coast Guard escorts
to communicate our whereabouts and run interference for us. In
Israeli waters, however, we each had to communicate directly
with the patrol boats and answer periodic questionnaires as to
our location, crew, nationality, and so forth. One got the impression
of a far more intensive interest in our doings by the Israeli
Navy, which became burdensome to some of the fleet who were ordered
to make several course changes - that made no obvious sense -
during the early morning hours. While 10 miles offshore, the
fleet was told to group up for escort into the marina - but then
the escort was delayed for two hours. This led to some discontent
within the fleet, and the rally experienced some dropouts at
The day after our arrival, a bus bombing up the road killed 17
Israelis - something we learned as we boarded a bus for a local
tour. But everyone went ahead with the scheduled tour to explore
Acco (ACRE), having been hosted individually for dinner the night
before in the homes of the local yacht club members.
Leg Seven. After two days in Haifa, we set out on yet another
night passage of 83 miles up the coast to Ashkelon Marina, where
a modern but largely empty marina awaited us. We rested up for
once before leaving for Port Said, Egypt.
Leg Eight. On June 8, a total of 25 of the original 38 starters
sailed off from Ashkelon on the 120-mile trip to Port Said at
the northern end of the Suez Canal. We had a lovely tight reach
through the night and arrived at the harbor entrance at dawn.
The Rally organizers had contemplated a problem free entrance
to the Port and anchorage in Arsenal Bay, where we expected to
be able to leave our boats for an overnight trip to Cairo and
the Pyramids. Problems arose, however, as soon as we approached
the entrance to the harbor, as canal pilots seeking fees for
pilotage physically blocked the fleet from entering the harbor
for over an hour. As the time went on, radio transmissions of
increasing volume went back and forth. The pilots ultimately
conceded our right to proceed without pilotage to the harbor
- but only after repeated promises of 'gifts' had been made by
our Egyptian agent.
We proceeded unmolested to the Arsenal Basin, where we were expected,
and where new mooring hardware had been installed for us to provide
security for the boats as the skippers and crews toured Cairo
and Giza. About an hour after our arrival, much of the fleet
made a brief and premature departure from Port Said, as many
of the new mooring rings pulled out of the quay. It appeared
the 'concrete' into which they had been cast had more dirt than
cement in the mix, and in any event was still uncured. Within
hours the problem was solved by running new chain between the
ancient bollards on the shore, and we departed the Arsenal Basin
for a cocktail party hosted by our Coast Guard escorts in another
area of town.
The next morning we departed by bus for Cairo with the usual
group of guards in front and behind the buses. We proceeded to
Giza to look at the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Sun Ship, and then
after a brief lunch - at Kentucky Fried Chicken - went on to
the Cairo Museum and then to the Nile for a brief sail on the
river. Our hotel that night was close to the Pyramids so we could
take in dinner in a tent with dancing horses, the usual belly
dancer, a whirling dervish of many colors. Our ride back to Port
Said the next day paralleled the Suez Canal, and we could see
many ships moving through the desert. We made a brief stop at
a marina 30 miles up the canal and then pressed on for a formal
dinner in Port Said with the usual presentations.
Leg Nine - Epilogue. We departed Port Said without difficulty
for the return leg to Herzliya some 136 miles back down our route,
and again had fantastic sailing conditions most of the way. The
security was again tight, but as we had all been vetted earlier,
there was less difficulty than on our initial entry into Israel.
Herzliya is a modern city with a serious marina and yacht club,
and we were able to leave our boats there without concern for
trips to Jerusalem, the Negiv Desert, the Dead Sea, and Masada.
All of these attractions were well worth visiting, and we were
again among the very few tourists at any of them.
The marina extended its hospitality for an additional week without
charge so that those who were interested could take an unofficial
three-day trip to Jordan to visit Petra and Amman. We elected
to do this, and were treated to a truly wonderful day at Petra,
which is a magnificent ruin. Jordan is also experiencing a lack
of tourism, and the 23 of us who made the trip were the first
guests our four-star hotel had in three weeks.
Unfortunately, while we were in Jordan, three suicide bombs killed
33 people in Jerusalem and new hostilities commenced which resulted
in delays reentering Israel at the River Jordan crossing. Since
the Rally had now been completed, we cleared Herzliya for Cyprus
the morning following our return from Jordan, and within a week
were back in our mooring at Kemer Marina.
The EMYR was the experience of a lifetime, yet several boats
were on it for their third and fourth times, so the appeal of
the event must be lingering. From an economic perspective, the
Rally was certainly the greatest bargain one could ask for. All
of our berthage, most of our meals, and almost all of our social
activities were included in the price of $120 per crew member.
The costs of the optional tours were minimal. On top of that
was the very real gratitude we received from our hosts in all
of the places we visited. We would not dream of undertaking a
similar agenda on our own, but if we did, I cannot see it costing
less than several thousand dollars - and it still would have
lacked the fun and companionship of being with our fellow Rally
participants. The EMYR is obviously a heavily subsidized event
with innumerable hours of work by the sponsors.
Our inclination is toward a slower pace with fewer overnight
passages and more lay days, but these are small nits to pick
in the overall context of the experience. We can and do recommend
the event to anyone, keeping in mind the obvious risks of being
in that part of the world at this time. The risks are very real,
yet probably overestimated by most of us with little experience
with such conditions.
- hall & wendy 6/25/02
Endor - Formosa 41 Ketch
Viva - Islander 37
We think that cruisers should try Corinto, Nicaragua - although
they should keep the boat locked up while away and while sleeping.
Bob's Viva was the only boat in the harbor before I showed
up. As reported in last month's Changes, his boat was
boarded in the night while he was sleeping in the cockpit. The
bad guys ripped off a bunch of food, clothing, money, and the
built-in stereo without even waking him. Nobody has attempted
to board my Witch - maybe there is safety in numbers.
Coming into the harbor at Corinto is pretty much a straight shot
followed by a dogleg to the right and then another dogleg to
the left. There are range markers all the way. The anchorage
is on the far side of the channel about equidistant from the
blue power barge and the knuckle of the main wharf where the
tugs tie up. The bottom is 15 feet with mud and sand. There is
good holding. The Port Captain probably won't answer the radio
if you call. After I arrived, I went ashore, had a few beers,
then went back to my boat and took a nap. The Port Captain didn't
show up until the next day.
There is a convenient and safe place to tie up the dinghy - in
the corner of a little knuckle in the main wharf between the
tug berths. You'll find a vertical ladder for getting up the
wharf. Dinghies left here are reasonably safe there because of
Port Security and the proximity of the tug crews. The Port Captain,
Aduana and Migracion are all within a block of the main wharf.
Just walk toward town and you'll find a gate abeam of the big
container crane. The guards are accustomed to seeing cruisers
come and go. The three offices of the officials are right there
on the street. It cost me $30 at Migracion, $10 at Aduana, but
nothing at the Port Captain - until I left when it cost $15 for
a zarpe. All the port officials were courteous and friendly.
If you go a couple of blocks up the street, you'll see two banks
and a Texaco gas station. From there, it's not far to the town
square. Corinto is extremely poor, but relatively clean. The
central park has a zoological display that includes a caged croc
and a bunch of little turtles. Teo and his wife run the La Glorieta
palapa, where they serve cold beer for 65 cents. There are lots
of places to eat. At Mariner's Rest, you can get chicken, spaghetti,
red beans, rice and a cerveza - all for a couple of bucks. Also
within a block of the central park is a mercado, ferreteria,
cinema, library, and lots of shops. While in the park, you'll
probably meet Chuck Roa, a retired master diver for the United
States Navy. He's a good source of local information.
As for the anchored barge with four huge diesels, it's an ENRON
power-generating plant that provides 15% of Nicaragua's electricity.
ENRON has similar facilities in Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama.
The guys who run the plant are terrific, and are happy to try
to help cruisers with pesky mechanical problems.
The downside to Corinto is that you'll see a few teenagers walking
around sniffing glue and trying to bum money, and a few old bums
looking for a handout. They are a nuisance rather than a threat
- at least during the daytime. We made sure we got off the streets
and back to our boats before sundown.
The 'No Name' anchorage further down the coast actually does
have a name - Astillero. We didn't see the reef as noted in Charlie's,
and the locals said there weren't any rocks in the area - but
it might be there. It's a breezy anchorage, but there's good
holding on a sand bottom. The local kids gathered to watch us
gringos come through the surf in our inflatables and were eager
to hold our bow when we headed back out to our big boats. Astillero
is a good stop. We enjoyed a couple of good meals ashore, procured
some lobster, did light reprovisioning at the small pulperias,
and established a good rapport with the locals.
San Juan del Sur is a bigger anchorage near the Costa Rican border.
It's windy, like most of the Nicaraguan coast, but there is good
holding. The Port Captain will come out to your boat on arrival.
When you want to depart, you must visit his office, which is
in an A-Frame house with a conspicuous antenna up the hill. The
Port Captain's office was staffed with courteous and professional
officials. The same can't be said of the local Immigration office
- which is at the border with Costa Rica. Plan on wasting most
of a day, as it requires two buses each way, a two-hour wait
for the stamp, and the trip back.
It can be tricky landing through the surf, so we tied our dinghies
to the main dock the first day. After that, we used the water
taxi. The water taxi is a classic, with a half dozen tires on
the starboard side for going alongside fishing boats, and about
20 fenders in a variety of colors and states of inflation on
the port side to pick up people from sailboats. The water taxi
service is run by Che, who operates from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. He
is punctual about picking you up at prearranged times. He'll
drop you off and pick you up at the main dock, where fuel and
water are available - as are fish and lobster.
It's a short walk to town from the main dock. There you will
find a few modest Internet cafes, the best of which is in the
language school about a block from the gate to the commercial
wharf. Other places to visit include Ricardo's Bar, the Iguana
Bar, Bar Vicky, and Nacho Mama's Mexican restaurant. San Juan
del Sur has a pretty good central market with nice looking fresh
veggies and other goodies. Elsewhere in town is a good lavanderia,
with a four hour turnaround and a mobile bank that opens across
the street from Ricardo's on Mondays and Thursdays. Side trips
can be arranged to Rivas and Lago de Nicaragua. Rivas has a Credomatic
affiliate for those not on the 'Plus' banking system, as well
as good shopping. Lake Nicaragua is a very interesting diversion
from the norm, with trips available out to Isla Ometepe for those
who want to spend the entire day.
That's our take on Nicaragua.
Velella - Wylie 31
Garth Wilcox & Wendy Hinman
Passage to Minerva Reef
Before leaving New Zealand in late May after a southern hemisphere
summer, we returned briefly to Auckland to finish a few projects
and say our good-byes to friends there. Once our projects were
finished, we felt more ready for an ocean passage than ever before.
So we even had time to do a few fun times in Auckland before
We fit in a few more nights out with our gang before we would
disperse in different directions. We even had time to schedule
an interview with a Japanese sailing magazine the day before
we were planning to leave. We also checked out the Alinghi Compound
for Switzerland's America's Cup Team, which had just been opened
to the public. Garth and I had a go on the coffee grinders during
a simulated spinnaker hoist, and I tried the bow simulator designed
to test one's balance on the bow of a bucking boat. After so
much sailing, it seemed pretty normal to me. There were all kinds
of displays and many of the Alinghi team members were on site.
I got to chat with and take some photos of skipper Russell Coutts,
who seemed surprised that we'd sailed to New Zealand from the
U.S. in such a small boat. When we return to New Zealand in November,
the Louis Vuitton Challenger series is likely to be well underway
and it will be even more interesting.
Before any major passage - and the New Zealand to South Pacific
passage is one of the more significant - all the bluewater cruisers
in the area talk about which is the best weather window to head
for the tropics. We checked various weather sites daily on the
Internet as we finished our preparations. We were provisioned
and all ready to go when a low pressure system stalled, creating
adverse winds. So we were stalled, too. Before each passage,
I make a bunch of ready-to-eat meals to minimize the need for
cooking in rough weather, so the clock was ticking on all this
food. Plus, we were starting to eat through our stores. Finally
the wind turned more southerly, although it was quite strong.
While it takes courage to leave a perfectly good marina when
the forecast is calling for a gale with gusts to 50 knots, it
was great timing for us to head north quickly under a full moon.
So we took off.
For the first four days, we had 35+ knot winds, mostly from behind
us. During the first couple of these days, we thought 'Yee ha!'
It was a wet, wild, and really cold ride, but we were averaging
7.5 knots while flying just a reefed #3 - which is about the
size of a handkerchief. But by the third day, this kind of sailing
was getting a little old. Our foul weather gear had become soaked
through, and it was a challenge to do anything below decks -
including putting on the many layers of clothing we needed to
We checked in with Russell Radio each morning by HF radio, giving
our position coordinates, and received a personal weather prediction
for our current position. When I heard a forecast that called
for the wind to build once again in our area, my heart sank,
for it had finally become too uncomfortable down below to function
beyond survival. Despite the forecast, the wind and waves continued
to mellow, there were fewer squalls, and the wind was from further
aft. By the fourth day, we were pretty comfortable but still
going fast. We covered far more distance in much less time than
on the same passage to New Zealand - and we still hadn't raised
the main during the first 4.5 days!
We saw more rainbows in those first few days than we've ever
seen, and we each saw the most incredible 'moonbow' - which could
have only been produced by a full moon and rainsqualls. And as
the weather cleared, millions of stars - more than we'd been
able to see amidst the lights of New Zealand - became visible
Initially, we'd sailed east on the westerly winds on the assumption
that the wind would come from the southeast and east once we
got into the tradewinds. We then sailed mostly due north, hovering
about the International Dateline - 180 degrees, where east meets
west - and joked about going from tomorrow to yesterday by changing
our heading slightly.
The fifth day of our passage was a mess, as our sink drain disintegrated,
allowing gray bilge water to flood the drawers of kitchen tools
beneath the sink. So while we were bouncing around, Garth spent
his precious off watch hours trying to rebuild the drain, and
I spent mine trying to clean and dry all the miscellaneous drawer
contents - towels, hot pads, matches, and so forth - amidst unfinished
dirty dishes from our prior meal. We eventually got things back
together, but the incident reminded me of the pressure cooker
explosion we'd experienced a few days before leaving Auckland.
That had resulted in split pea soup being splattered all over
our living area, which took us hours to clean. Thank God that
hadn't happened while we were underway!
We planned a pit stop at Minerva Reef - two shallow spots enclosed
inside a fringing reef in the middle of the ocean - and we were
quite ready for a little rest and clean up by the time we got
close. In addition, the wind was starting to turn against us.
By nightfall, we were only 15 miles south of South Minerva Reef
with the wind quickly building from ahead, so we loitered about
for 16 hours in wet choppy seas before we could enter the reef
safely in good daylight. Without GPS, a planned visit - the only
kind you'd want at Minerva - would not be possible. We came within
half a mile before we spotted the reef, and the narrow channel
opening between breakers to the calmer waters inside. There is
no land at Minerva, only a sharp reef that you can walk on for
just a couple of hours a day during low tide. Come high tide,
the reef is nearly invisible even from inside. We were literally
anchored in the middle of the ocean with no land for hundreds
of miles. We found it a little disquieting.
On our way to Minerva, we'd read a fascinating story about a
shipwreck there in '62 that stranded 17 Tongan men for four months.
Using just a serrated knife and a hammer as tools, they were
able to use pieces from their wreck and that of another to build
a small outrigger that three of them sailed the 400 miles back
to Fiji to get help. Their story of survival amidst the most
trying conditions was inspiring, but we hoped we'd only have
to read about such things.
Here are the statistics for our trip from Auckland to North Minerva
Reef. Miles sailed - 932. Time motored - none. Wind speed: 35+
knots S, SW, SE mostly, then 5 knots from the east, briefly building
to 25 knots NE for 20 hours. Highest boat speed - 9 knots. Lowest
boat speed - 1.7 knots, but only for a few hours. Average daily
run - 140 miles. Passage highlights - peeling off layers of clothing
and warming up in the sunshine as we ventured north; seeing millions
of stars reappear, and watching the miles add up. Low point -
doing an epoxy job on the sink drain in the middle of the ocean
in 25 knots of wind, and cleaning up.
After arriving in Minerva Reef, we basically just slept, read,
and cleaned up the boat and ourselves for the first couple of
days. We had planned to stay a while to relax, to finish some
of the fresh food we had on board, and to gradually get used
to the warmer temperatures before reaching the intense heat of
We contemplated launching the dinghy and rowing out to explore
the reef during low tide, but thought it was a little windy and
couldn't muster up the energy. But two other boats - one German
and one Spanish - anchored nearby had launched theirs and gone
exploring. After dark, we heard voices outside and thought maybe
some of the other yachties were off to try to catch lobster.
But when we heard whistles, we came on deck and realized the
folks in the dinghy, having lost the use of their outboard, were
being blown across the lagoon faster than they could paddle.
Since the reef was submerged, there was nothing to stop them
for thousands of open ocean miles. We quickly pulled out our
floodlight to shine on them, took a bearing with the hand-bearing
compass, and called the other boat on the VHF to see if they
could rescue them - as our dinghy wasn't in the water. The folks
on Nicole of Spain had already put away their dinghy,
but in an impressively short time raised their anchor and set
off toward where our light shone, watching for coral heads from
their bow with a floodlight.
We learned later that the German couple was returning to their
boat after visiting with Nicole of Spain, and had lost
one oar and broken the second before realizing they needed outside
help after losing their engine. It had been a scary incident,
but resulted in a well-coordinated rescue. It reminded us that
Minerva Reef is just a shallow spot in the middle of the ocean,
and that venturing off in the dinghy isn't something that should
be approached lightly. We planned to visit the reef the next
day, but had to stop short after one of our oarlocks broke and
a second on the same side threatened to break free without reinforcement.
(We couldn't find anything but cheap fittings in New Zealand,
and they didn't even last two months!) After the other boats
left, Minerva Reef was almost eerie. We were really cautious
when we explored the reef. It's one thing to be out sailing in
our home on the ocean, but quite another to be adrift in a rowing
After a few more days of fine dining - including two bourbon
apple pies from the Pie Man - and good rest, we figured it was
time to continue on to Fiji. Besides, the crowd from behind us
was starting to catch up.
The lure of continuing on was strong, as we knew that with just
four more days of sailing, we could reach Savusavu, where we
could enjoy a calm anchorage and the amenities of a port. The
wind was fairly steady from behind us as we started out, then
gradually moved forward and lightened until we were beating into
a light wind with mellow seas. Overall, it was pleasant sailing.
We were disappointed, however, to be unable to reach port before
dark on our fourth day, and had to loiter outside the reef again
for the next 15 hours. Naturally, the wind came up once we didn't
need to sail anywhere. So we decided to drop the jib and double
reef the main for the night.
Unfortunately, as Garth was pulling in the leech of the main,
the winch flew off the boom, hit him in the head, bounced on
the deck - splintering the wood and leaving a noticeable gouge
- then went overboard. Ouch! We're lucky to have a second boom
winch, but the extra night out turned out to be costly. We did
our best to rest on our alternating off watches through the night,
and after first light, headed for the pass in the reef. We made
landfall in the small town of Savusavu at about 10 a.m. After
getting some rest, we're looking forward to exploring Fiji.
- wendy & garth 09/02/02
"Our cruising plans are on hold right now," writes
Ingo Jeve of the San Francisco-based Valiant 40 Seeadler,
which is currently in Kemer, Turkey. "We just got the news
that my sister in Berlin is terminally ill with lung cancer,
so we now must take care of her. Like always, my wife Espie is
doing a super job of helping me. One day I will sit down and
write some more about our sailing adventures in Europe. Until
then, keep the dream alive."
It's amazing how time flies. It seems like yesterday that we
first met Ingo and Espie in Mazatlan and Isla Isabella - but
it was actually 1977.
"We always hope to hear from those folks that we have met
while cruising, but have lost touch with," say David Heath
and Janet Erken of the Seattle-based homebuilt 38-ft cutter Alegria,
which is current in Baltimore. "Since there are several
Alegrias out sailing now, here is our brief biography.
Three of us built Alegria - which has an Ingrid hull -
and launched her near Seattle in 1976. The next year we sailed
her along the coast from Seattle to Acapulco, then across the
Pacific to French Polynesia, the Hawaiian Islands, Vancouver
Island, and back to Seattle in '79. Two years later, we sailed
back to the Sea of Cortez for a little more than five years.
After leaving La Paz in '86, we sailed down the coast of Costa
Rica to Panama, and then up the Western Caribbean to Isla San
Andreas, Roatan and the Rio Dulce, and reached Texas in '89.
We left the Houston area 10 years later and are now in Baltimore.
We plan to do the Bahamas this winter and perhaps spend next
summer in Trinidad. Lost friends can . Don't forget to email us before the end of
September and don't forget to put 'Latitude' in the subject
line - or your message will automatically go into the trash bin.
May the wind and your ground tackle always treat you well."
It's been an event-filled four years for Ben Siebert. He started
out with the Ericson 29 Chloe in the Channel Islands,
but sold her, and in July of '98 he and his new wife Marilyn
purchased the Kennex 445 catamaran Side by Side in Annapolis.
Ben delivered the cat south to Fort Lauderdale in the fall, and
in the spring of '99 - with Marilyn five months pregnant - they
took off cruising. They caught the end of Sailing Week in Georgetown
and found the Exumas to be awesome. When Marilyn became eight
months pregnant, they parked the boat in Miami and returned to
California where their son Noah was born. While in California,
they'd put their boat in a Florida bareboat management program.
"It was a disaster," says Ben, "as the boat was
trashed in three months." So they started their own bareboat
company with Side by Side. After 15 months, they had a
total of six boats in the program. Ben says the enterprise was
the source of a million stories. One charterer, for instance,
took a boat down to Haiti, picked up 16 illegal Chinese immigrants,
and tried to smuggle them into the U.S.
That fall, the now three members of the Siebert family took off
cruising once again, spending a year enjoying much of the Bahamas
and getting as far south as the Turks & Caicos. Marilyn,
who must be a real trooper, became pregnant a second time, so
they returned to Miami a year ago in March, where Sierra was
born. In January of this year, they - now a family of four -
sold their cruising company to one of the boatowners, and took
off for the Eastern Caribbean. Ben says it was rough going along
the famed 'Thorny Path' to the Eastern Caribbean, particularly
with two infants. After waiting in the Domincan Republic for
three weeks to get a weather window east, Ben and Marilyn threw
in the towel and decided to return to California to start Southern
California Charters. The first boat in their program will be
Side by Side.
Before they could start anything, they had to get the catamaran
back to California. Rather than sail her, they put her on a Dockwise
Yacht Transport 'sinker' ship, which will take their cat to Vancouver
by way of San Diego. Thanks to the Jones Act, which is supposed
to protect the seemingly nonexistent American shipping industry,
Side by Side can't legally be unloaded in San Diego without
first making a round trip to Vancouver, British Columbia. But
the Sieberts have decided to cruise her for a few weeks in the
San Juans first, then sail her south to San Diego. For anyone
thinking about shipping their boat, Ben recommends price shopping
online rather than dealing with a local agent. Dockwise's rep
in Florida quoted them $16,000 for the trip to Vancouver, but
when he went to the Belgium-based company's online site, he booked
the same passage for only $10,200 - a huge savings. It would
have cost an extra $4,800 to ship the boat back down to San Diego.
Ben was surprised how easy it was to load the ship. "I figured
that it would take them a day or two to load the 50 or so yachts,
but it was so simple they had it done in just two or three hours."
The trip from Fort Lauderdale to Vancouver will take three weeks.
Ben gives the Kennex top marks for liveability and room. He says
she's not as fast as a similar-sized Catana, but she's more comfortable
in heavy weather. Old friends can reach the Sieberts by .
"The accompanying photos are of Doug, my husband, and I,
sailing with the spinnaker up for the first time," writes
Lisa Welch of the Peterson 44 Mamouna. "We left San
Diego in December of 2000, and have been cruising toward Panama
ever since. Mamouna is currently in El Salvador while
we are visiting family and friends back in the States. We will
return to the boat in September and begin cruising to Costa Rica.
Our favorite places thus far have been Isla Isabella, San Blas,
Banderas Bay, Zihuatanejo, and Puerto Escondido, all of which
are on the Mexican mainland, and Bahia del Sol, El Salvador.
We've enjoyed so much beautiful scenery and so many fun-loving
people along the way. This is my first long-distance voyage,
but as you can see, I have the fever!"
Sorry we didn't have enough space for photos of both you and
your husband, Lisa, so his photo will have to wait until you
"Hello from the anchorage in Washington Channel in Washington,
D.C., just a short distance from our nation's capitol,"
write Bill and Lisa Brown of the Sacramento and Bellingham-based
44-ft cutter Vite. "It's a little strange in this
urban setting after two years of being on the east and west coasts
of Mexico and Central America. The access to the free tourist
attractions of the capital are wonderful, however. The Capital
YC gives the crews of anchored boats access to their clubhouse
and dinghy dock for $10 a day including showers. It's more expensive
than San Blas, Panama, but it's worth it. In addition to 50-cent
laundry machines and cheap Internet access, the club has the
best bar on either coast! It's hot and humid in D.C., but the
indoors and movies are air-conditioned, so we manage. We're waiting
for the Annapolis Boat Show in October, and will then head down
to the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos. Next summer we're headed
to Maine and Nova Scotia. We just hope the economy gets better
so we can keep doing this. Sweet sailing to everyone."
"I have been reading some of the accounts of this year's
Baja Bash and think that perhaps we had one of the easiest,"
writes John Haste of the San Diego-based Perry 52 catamaran Little
Wing. "We - my sister Pat Tryon, daughter Lisa Marr,
my 13-year-old grandson Scott, and I - left Cabo on the afternoon
of July 6. After rounding Cabo Falso, we encountered the expected
15 knots from the northwest, but nothing more. Still the winds
didn't increase, so we decided not to stop at Bahia Santa Maria,
and continued on to Turtle Bay, arriving on the evening of the
8th. The Chubasco Net forecast for the next two days was for
fog, with light and variable winds with a southwesterly component
on the way to San Diego. The fuel dock was out of fuel, so the
next morning Ernesto came out in his panga and we gave him 4,200
pesos for 600 liters of fuel. Pat, having never experienced the
warmth and hospitality of Mexico, expected to never see Ernesto
again. But an hour later he was rolling the barrels of fuel down
the beach and loading them into his panga. We left Turtle Bay
at noon on Tuesday in fog and glassy sea conditions. For the
next two days we had light and variable southwesterlies. At 4
a.m. on Thursday we tied up at the Customs Dock in San Diego.
If you subtract the 16-hour layover in Turtle Bay, we did the
Bash in less than four days."
In the last few months, we've heard from quite a few people who
had pleasant Bashes from Cabo to San Diego. If somebody doesn't
have to adhere to a schedule - or if they can wait until after
spring - they have a much better chance of a decent trip up the
"Kristen and I have been back in the States for almost three
months after finishing our trip from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego
with our Pearson 365 Sol Mates, writes Rob Runge. "The
key word for our life has been readjustment, and my head is still
spinning from reentry - working, driving, and learning about
a new city - into the 'real world'. It seems like the adventure
never stops. Kristen is back flying for American and is enjoying
it again. I've landed a job selling ad space for two of the 15
radio stations in San Diego. There is so much I don't know, so
once again I've undertaken another challenge with a steep learning
curve. At least the odds of drowning are lower than with my last
challenge. Those of you who are still cruising might be wondering
how we're able to reenter the real world. It's not easy, and
there are days when I think I want to hop back on the boat and
sail south again. But mostly it's pretty nice to be on dry land,
and last week both Kristen and I got paychecks! It was my first
since January of '01."
"We have enjoyed reading miscellaneous copies of Latitude
as we made our way around the world," write Tad and Joyce
Lhamon of the Bainbridge Island, Washington-based Alden 44 Lyric,
"so we'd like to be added to your Circumnavigator's List.
We departed Seattle in August of '96, and crossed our outbound
path at Puerto Vallarta in May of this year. We're now on our
way back up the West Coast to the Seattle area. Our circumnavigation
was a little different in that we went around the tip of South
Africa and then sailed all the way up to Scotland before getting
to the Caribbean and coming through the Canal. Our route was
as follows: Mexico, French Polynesia, other Pacific islands,
New Zealand, mid-Pacific Islands, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore,
Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Chagos, Seychelles,
East Africa, South Africa, Atlantic Islands of St. Helena and
Ascension, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Canaries, Caribbean,
Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the U.S. West Coast."
Congratulations on a terrific accomplishment. We're curious,
however, as to how you dealt with the Azores High on your way
from Ascension to Ireland. Did you sail a 270 degree curve on
a path that took you relatively close to Bermuda? And if so,
how long did it take you?
"There's great news for cruisers in Banderas Bay,"
reports Dick Markie, Harbormaster at Paradise Resort and Marina
at Nuevo Vallarta. "Karl Raggio, well-known and much-loved
from his nearly 12 years as harbormaster at Marina Vallarta,
is joining us here at Paradise Marina, where he'll be working
with Juan 'the Paperman' Arias. Karl, who used to live in Salinas,
will be working closely with me and the rest of my staff to provide
on-time clearing services. Karl has been a big help at the Chili
Cook-Offs and Banderas Bay Regattas here at Paradise, but it's
great to have him working here full time. We haven't had any
problems between the port captains and cruisers here, and along
with Karl, Juan, and Manuel, we hope to keep it that way. Incidentally,
the new yacht club came out better than I expected, and the new
showers and hot tub are now open. In addition, we are opening
the newly-completed bathrooms and showers at the end of E Dock
down by the bridge. We can't wait to see all of our old friends
and new cruisers when the season begins in just a few months."
"I'm currently in the Sacramento area for a month to take
care of business and file my taxes for last year," reports
Marc Hachey, who recently singlehanded the Auburn-based Peterson
44 Sea Angel from San Francisco to the Northeast. "Fortunately,
being out of the country while cruising is a valid reason for
an automatic extension. Unfortunately, estimated taxes must be
paid by April 15 when the extension form is filed. In any event,
I am looking forward to attending the Cruiser's Mountain Raft
Up in Truckee. By the way, if anyone thinks the prices on the
West Coast or in Mexico are high, they should see what marinas
and marina services cost in the Northeast. A transient slip in
Falmouth Harbor on Cape Cod, for example, will cost you $3/ft/night!
And that's if you're lucky enough to find an empty one."
Dick McCune of Bali, Indonesia, reports that the Royal Bali YC
was founded in February as a non-profit club to promote the sport
of sailing and promote Indonesia as a sailing destination. With
35 initial members, the club's first event was to take a group
of young Indonesian sailors on club yachts for a two-day rally
to Padangbai Beach. Their second event was being the destination
for the Darwin to Bali Race - which replaced the old Darwin to
Ambon Race. A fleet of 16 boats arrived in early August, the
sole American entry being the Deerfoot 62 Mango Tango.
What does Bali have to offer cruisers? According to the brochure,
"A year round sailing destination located roughly in the
center of the Indonesia Archipelago of 17,000 islands. Depending
on the season, there are easterly or westerly tradewinds - but
there are no tropical cyclones. Sailors are encouraged to leave
their vessels for short term to enjoy inland travel on an island
that is one of the world's dream tourist destinations, or long
term so they can return home. So plan ahead and join the party
by escaping to Bali, a tropical paradise with warm and wonderful
people. For further information, call 08123-956-173." You
can also contact them through www.balimarina.com,
as the club's own web address won't work for us. For what it's
worth, Indonesia is 88% Muslim, but Bali is overwhelmingly Hindu.
"For five weeks now, we have called the Barillas Marina
Club in El Salvador our home," report Steven and Jackie
Gloor of the San Diego-based Moonshadow. "It's a
very nice destination in a country still struggling to recover
from 12 years of civil war and a devastating earthquake. The
Barillas Relief Project to build homes for impoverished locals
is one of the major reasons we came here. As of the end of June,
the second phase of the project - six duplexes and six single
family homes - has been completed. For us, working on the project
has given us a chance to see part of El Salvador that most folks
won't get to see - and to meet some wonderful locals and fellow
cruisers. Dennis Johnson of the Columbia 50 Knee Deep has done
the lion's share of the work on this phase of the project - as
well as the first phase. He has been going up to the village
- a three-hour roundtrip on very poor roads - three days a week
for over a year now. If there is a medal given for charitable
work, we nominate Dennis for the top of the list. After a hard
day's work, it was always nice to be able to return to the Barillas
Marina and enjoy the pristine pool and perhaps a potluck with
other cruisers. With the arrival of summer, however, many cruisers
have either continued south or left their boats here while they
headed back to the States for the summer. After a trip to Guatemala
in the coming weeks, we will join the other cruisers heading
to Costa Rica and Panama."
"For several reasons and years, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico,
has been home - and it's sooo good to be back," writes Jim
Meeker of the Cal 34 Tafia. "The low stress and relatively
inexpensive lifestyle has my blood pressure back down to high
school numbers. Due to my quirky medical insurance, a glitch,
and logistics, I was forced to return to the States rather than
have my medical work done in Mexico. Thanks to sins in my earlier
years, I had to have a high-tech ICD/pacemaker/magic box installed
to keep me alive.
"Incidentally," Jim continues, "it may be of interest
to cruisers to know there are several distinct medical systems
in Mexico. The university system has doctors, equipment, and
technology equal to or better than many U.S. hospitals. IMSS,
a government HMO, takes care of basic hospitalization needs and
is an exceptional bargain for cruisers. IMSS patients with life-threatening
problems are transfered to the university system. There are private
and military hospitals - that cruisers can often use - but they
run from poor to excellent. The hospitals for poor people and
fishing village clinics, on the other hand, can't care for serious
problems. There is no reason to settle for anything less than
excellent doctors and hospitals in any of the larger Mexican
ports. When something really bad happens, cruisers are the first
to help. For example, thanks to Ron of Encounter, Rick
of Mejnoon, Frederico of Estudio, and my new and
old friends from the Peninsula YC, my face was picked up from
the floor and I was taken to where I needed to go when I needed
to go. Now that my gizmo has been installed, I feel wonderful
- and stronger than I have in many years. And my test results
were fabulous. My only problem is itchy feet, so I'd better get
back to getting ready to go again."
"After four months in Mexico, one in Guatemala, two in El
Salvador, and six in Costa Rica, we find ourselves in Panama's
Bocas del Toro," report Curt and Leigh Ingram of the Newport
Beach-based Cheoy Lee Pedrick 36 First Star. "Located
on the northwestern coast of Panama on the Caribbean side, Bocas
del Toro is a wonderful cruising area that has something for
everyone. My wife and I are surfers, so we have been enjoying
the waves. The water is clear, so there is good diving and several
dive shops. The town has good provisioning, restaurants, Internet
cafes, fuel, and transportation. There are flights daily to Panama
City, from which you can fly to anywhere - which is why many
cruisers leave their boats here when travelling back to the U.S.
The Bocas YC and Marina, which is half full with 33 yachts while
still under development, makes it easy to do this. The Bocas
YC has floating docks, water, power, great laundry service, showers,
heads, and will soon have a bar. The eager staff is helpful and
wants to make your stay a pleasant one. They have assisted us
with checking in, finding waves, getting repairs, arranging bottom
cleaning, washing and polishing, and finding our way around.
They have made calls and sent and received faxes for us. We have
stayed at all of the marinas in Panama and like the Bocas YC
the best of all. They can be found at www.bocasmarina.com. We plan to spend more time in Panama before
sailing to Cartagena."
The Bocas YC and Marina intends to be a world class facility
with over 100 slips for yachts of between 20 and 100 feet. In
addition, they plan to add apartment and commercial space. We've
never been to the Bocas del Toro area, but based on the reports
we've heard from cruisers, and the great location, the good surfing
and diving, the countless local anchorages, and the lack of crowds,
we think it's a real comer.
"After 13 years of marine service work at Mariner Boat Yard,
Edinger Marine, StarMarine Electronics, and others, I've decided
to take your advice and just go," reports Glenn Barton of
Barton Marine Electric and the Oakland-based Pearson 27 Renegade.
Apparently Jack Vickland of Moxie Marine will be along as co-skipper,
and Bill Podzon of StarMarine Electronics will be crew. "We'll
be leaving the Bay Area about October 1 for Catalina, and then
leave San Diego about November 1 for San Blas to see family and
friends. After that, who knows? If anybody needs any rigging
or electric work on the way to or in Mexico, we always look forward
to serving the sailing community. Our friends will be able to
reach us by . And thanks, Latitude, for the constant
"No matter how you chart your course or how well you prepare
yourself, sometimes life has a way of altering that course,"
say Jann Hedrick and Nancy Birnbaum of the Pt. Richmond-based
(but currently in Mexico) Alberg 35 Saga. "Just as
we were ready to leave San Carlos for Bahia de Los Angeles, my
brother informed me that our mom is very ill, so we must put
our cruise on hold again so I can go back to Miami to be with
her. We'll pray for the best possible outcome. In any event,
it looks as though we won't get back to Saga until early
next year. At least we had a couple of good months in the Sea
and got to meet some more great cruisers such as C'est La
Vie, La Brujita, Mi Casa, Navigator B, Sojourne, Sun Bear, NYankee
Girl, and others. We can be reached by .
"If you're thirsty in Puerto Escondido, Baja, you'll need
20 pesos - about $2.20 U.S. - for a drink of water," report
some 'San Francisco Bay cruisers' who wish to remain anonymous.
"As of early August, Fonatur, the government tourist development
agency, posted a sign at the locked water cage that notifed cruisers
that 1 to 200 liters would be 20 pesos, 200-500 liters would
be 30 pesos, and 500 to 1,000 liters would be 40 pesos. According
to the Fonatur sign at the parking lot, it now costs 20 pesos
to launch a boat. In addition, it's 10 pesos to park for up to
four hours, 50 pesos for the day, and 200 pesos for a month.
It's all tentative, but Fonatur has said they are thinking of
charging $1 day or $25 a month for boats anchored in the bay
or the 'Waiting Room'. The 'usage fee' would entitle boaters
to use the dinghy dock (built and currently maintained by the
local cruisers), the garbage shed (currently maintained by the
local cruisers), and water dock. There has been a dramatic decrease
in the number of boats based out of Puerto Escondido this summer.
We're sure the U.S. economy has something to do with it, but
we think that it's more likely a combination of the port captain
fees, Loreto National Park fees, and the ongoing rumors of proposed
We love receiving Changes from each of you - especially
by email - but have a special favor to ask. Please, please, please,
always include your boat name, boat type, skipper and mate's
full name, and the boat's hailing port. And if you really want
to be our heroes, include a relatively high resolution head and
shoulders photo of yourself and one of the places you've been.
By doing so, you'll have helped make Latitude a more enjoyable