September, 2003

With reports this month from Cat's Meow on a fine haul-out in Mazatlan; from Notre Vie on further adventures in the Med; from Siesta on Costa Rica and Panama; from Hot Ice with tips on preparing for the Sea of Cortez; from Chesapeake on cruising from the Rio Dulce to Panama; and Cruise Notes.

Cat's Meow - Custom Trawler
Martin & Robin Hardy
Hauling In Mazatlan
(San Pedro)

After hearing and reading some horror stories about haulouts in Mexico, we would like to spread the good word about our experience at the SENI Boatyard in Mazatlan - and pass on some news about getting fuel there.

The last time our boat had a bottom job had been September of '99, so using email, we made arrangments to have her hauled at the Servicios Navales E Industriales (SENI) yard in Mazatlan this last April. We did so based on the recommendation of some cruisers we met in Puerto Vallarta. Mario Uribe was our contact at SENI. He answered all of our questions, was clear about the prices, and informed us of an opportunity to haul a couple of weeks earlier than planned. Incidentally, Mario speaks and writes English well - having spent three years of his youth in Scotland!

The yard surface at SENI is cement rather than dirt as is the case at many yards in Mexico, they have a good marine rail system, boatowners may live aboard while the work is being done, and they even have 'cruiser only' restrooms. The charges for the haul, power wash, and bottom painting were reasonable. The best news is that they really know what they are doing! Although we brought our own bottom paint, the yard carries Hempl bottom paint and can get other brands.

While we were on the ways, we found some unexpected problems: the cutlass bearing we'd replaced three years before in San Pedro was badly worn, the 20-ft long shaft was also badly worn in two places, and we found completely rotten wood when we removed two steel plates from the starboard side of the bow. These problems extended our time in the yard as well as our out-of-pocket expenses, but we are very grateful that the problems were found and could be fixed.

While the shaft was being taken care of, Martin was able to repair the boo-boo in the bow, with the yard being very helpful by making supplies available on a pay-for-what-you-use basis. We had also planned to spray the hull, and after a week of prep work were ready to try out our new sprayer. But when the yard offered to spray our paint - using their own professional-quality sprayer - the price was so good we let them do it. The work crew spent three hours painstakingly taping the boat, all of which was included in the quoted price.

Having operated a small yacht maintenance business in San Pedro, the two of us know boatyards and yard work. After spending 11 days in the SENI yard, living aboard the entire time, we have nothing negative to report about the experience. SENI operates a professional yard, with skilled and courteous workers. We were impressed by the attitude of the crew assigned to our boat, as well as by their ingenuity. Mario, the production manager; Felix, the general manager; and Jorge, the job supervisor, were all very attentive and helpful. And the men who worked on our boat were careful and courteous, especially when coming aboard. Attention to detail was superb, and the prices reasonable.

You can . Tell him Cat's Meow sent you!

The second item we want to pass on is that the Pemex dock - which is just past the ferry dock inside the Mazatlan Harbor- is open and ready to sell fuel to cruisers. This is a dock designed for very large vessels, but smaller boats can be accommodated. We found Ricardo, Miguel, and Sabino to be quite helpful and careful about assisting us as we came to the dock. The diesel price is the same as at a street pump, with no added charges or tax! The day we took on fuel, we paid $4.91 pesos/liter - which works out to about $1.85/gallon at the 10:1 exchange rate. While it is a ride from the marinas in Mazatlan to the fuel dock at the harbor, it may be worth it for the difference in price.

We are now happily at anchor at Puerto Escondido, enjoying the islands, people, and area. For us, life doesn't get much better than this.

- robin & martin 6/15/03

Readers - If anyone else wants to share good boatyard experiences in Mexico - or anywhere else, for that matter - we'd like to publish them.

Notre Vie - Amel Super Maramu 53
Ken Burnap & Nancy Gaffney
France & Italy
(Santa Cruz)

We have really been enjoying cruising the French and Italian Rivieras. The crowds were thick in the ports, but we found that we enjoyed the hum and hustle - it made us feel as though we were really 'there'. I don't think the ports would be any less beautiful in the off season, but they wouldn't have the same vitality.

The cruising guide suggested that we'd have trouble getting slips during the very busy months of July and August, but by calling ahead, persevering, and being just plain lucky, we were never shut out. Everyone says there are more slips available this year, perhaps because of the weakened world economy. In any case, there are also many beautiful anchorages. Most of the anchorages get pretty full during the day, but empty in the late afternoon when most boats head back to port.

We had our anniversary dinner in Cannes on July 5th. We also visited beautiful Port Vauban in Antibes and the wonderful Picasso Museum. July 14 was our last night on the French part of the Riviera, and it turned out to be quite memorable. We anchored just to the east of Nice at Anse de Fose, where the water was lovely and there were great walking trails ashore. As wonderful as it was, we had the whole place to ourselves by 6 p.m. The 14th is Bastille Day, of course, which is France's version of the Fourth of July. At dusk, a small barge loaded with fireworks entered the anchorage. When darkness fell, we could see the fireworks off distant Nice, but 'our' fireworks barge just wandered around.

After a lot of time passed without local fireworks, many boats headed back to port and we took to our bunks. But then the barge cut loose with one of the most thrilling fireworks displays either of us have ever seen! There are several large estates on the bay, and we figured it was a private show for one of the mega rich owners and their guests - although it seemed as though it had been put on just for us. It definitely called for a bottle of Veuve Cliequot, our favorite champagne. So you might say that we left France with a big bang!

Our next stop was Monaco, where Ken doubled his money at the roulette table. It was a good thing, too, because the slip fee was a record-breaking - for us - 134 euros or $150 U.S.! And they only accepted cash. Nonetheless, Monaco is a fascinating and beautiful place. It looks more like Manhattan than the Riviera, and we're amazed that the weight of the towering buildings haven't sunk it into the sea.

San Remo, on the Italian Riviera, was our next stop. We were welcomed by a gregarious singing dockhand. I'd been practicing my Italian, and just love the lilt in the language. We can't help thinking the Italians just have more fun than their more reserved French neighbors. San Remo has a wonderful Old Town with picturesque narrow streets and small restaurants with reasonably priced food.

Our next stop was an anchorage off Loano. There was nobody else there to enjoy the beautiful sunset against the spectacular mountains.

We arrived in Portofino, arguably one of the most picturesque anchorages in the world, on a Sunday afternoon. The entrance was so busy that we decided to back off and anchor a ways away. Monday morning we returned to Portofino, and although we couldn't find a place to anchor, I did notice a Med-tie space on the dock. I called the Harbormaster on the VHF - and we were in there! There are only eight visitor spots in the most exclusive harbor in Italy, and we got one of them!

After the Harbormaster helped us secure our bow to the mooring buoy and fasten our stern lines - most ports in the Med have mooring buoys you have to grab while backing up to the dock, or laid lines tailed to the quay - he shook his head when we said our boat was 16 meters long. "No," he said, "your boat is 15 meters" - explaining that the rates were higher for 16 meter boats. We held our breath when we asked what the mooring fee would be. Sixty euros?! Just $67 U.S. - I love Italy! No cars are allowed in Portofino, which is a treasure of a small village.

After Portofino, we wandered down the Cinque Terre Coast, where five charming towns not accessible by road seem to cling to the cliffs for dear life, and wine grapes and other crops are cultivated on terraces of very steep slopes. Until recently, the towns were only connected by footpaths.

We then moved on to the communal dock in Porto Vareggio, which was basically a cement channel where we could tie up for free. There were no services available. Italy has a custom of making free dock space available in just about every harbor. Some are side-ties, but more commonly you throw out an anchor and back up to shore - or go bow-to with a stern anchor. Sometimes this can result in a tangle of anchors - such as we saw at Marciana Marina on the island of Elba, our next stop - but it all works out. Elba is lovely, green, and mountainous - and makes us want to say, "We love Italy!" While on Elba we took a bus and then a cabinovia - a small cage suspended with a cable - for a thrilling ride that takes you to the top of Monte Capanne, the tallest mountain on the island. We could see the entire island - including the marina our boat was in - from the summit.

We travelled northwest from Elba back to France - or at least the large French island of Corsica. After rounding Cape Corse, we anchored near St. Florent. The first day we stopped for lunch and a swim off a pristine white sand beach. Our lunch was quickly terminated by northwest winds that built from five knots to 30 knots in a matter of minutes. We immediately retreated to a small bay where we were somewhat sheltered from the wind and swell for the night. In the calm of the following morning, we managed to make it 15 miles to anchor in the shelter off L'Ile Rousse, where the wind was up to 25 knots again by noon. When we took the dinghy into town that night to provision and walk around, it was our first time ashore in Corsica.

Corsica is rugged and wild looking, and her northwest coast deserves the respect of mariners. We waited three days for the weather to calm down before attempting to take off, as marinas and anchorages that could accommodate our 53-ft boat and seven foot draft are few and far between. But once we were there enjoying the vistas and the beautiful coves and beaches, it was well worth the effort. The one thing people coming to Corsica need is a panoramic camera - to capture the full majesty of its landscape.

From here, we plan to voyage down the east side of Sardinia, then over to Sicily and the Aeolian Islands, through the Strait of Messina, and make our way to Greece and Turkey. If anyone has information on good marinas to leave a boat in Turkey for the winter, we can be contacted by .

- ken and nancy 7/25/03

Siesta - CSY 44
Ed & Daisy Marill
Costa Rica & Panama
(Marathon, Florida)

On our way to Panama, we stopped at Bahia Drake, which is just across the Osa Peninsula from Golfito in the southern part of Costa Rica. The bay is partially exposed to the northwest swells, but wasn't too bad. The beach we anchored off of experiences 15-foot tides, and has a small river that is home to some crocodiles. Yikes! The Osa Peninsula is the most isolated part of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The village doesn't have electricity yet, so much of their communication is by VHF radio. The area is home to a couple of rustic but incredibly beautiful inns with stunning views. These inns cater to eco-tourists, most of whom fly in on small planes as there is no road from the capital of San Jose.

When we entered the bay, we couldn't help but notice a mega cruise ship anchored off of the Corcovado National Preserve. Its passengers were whisked to the beach for tours of the remote but awesome rainforest. In addition to the fishing, kayaking, and diving, a main attraction was the panga rides to a four-mile distant beach where there is access to the totally wild and richly-populated rainforest.

One night we dined ashore at El Aguila Osa, one of the two eco-tourists inns. There were about 20 guests, mostly young gringos. What a family-style spread they put out over three large wooden tables - filet mignon, jumbo shrimp, unbelievable salads, and all the red and white wine we could drink! In addition, there were guanabanana fruit drinks, the best black bean dip we've ever tasted, and much more.

During dinner, the guests told us about the wonderful guided tour of the rain forest they'd enjoyed that day. They'd seen all four species of monkeys, as well as sloths, macaws, parrots, cotemundis, and much more. This sounded like fun. Fluent in Spanish, I negotiated a private deal with a local named Alejandro. He would give us a full day tour of the park for $15/person. He was very happy with the offer, which leads me to believe that the inns - which charge $75/person for the same service - don't do a very good job of sharing the tourist bounty with their workers. Surprise, surprise.

We had a wonderful tour! In addition to the beautiful beaches and shades of blue we are used to from the Bahamas, there was also the rich green rainforest vegetation on tall boulders that almost came down to the water's edge. What a colorful combination! Our Nikon Coolpix 990 digital camera had bitten the dust the day before, so we were lucky that our crewmember Kathy had another digital camera. The photography was some of the best! Seeing the monkeys and all the fauna was a wonderful experience.

Our last stop in Costa Rica was at Golfito, where we topped off our diesel tanks and checked out of the country. We left Golfito just before dark so as to navigate the channel in daylight, and proceeded south into the night at low speed, to insure a daylight arrival at Parida, Panama. Here's something different - you don't have to check in to Panama until you get to Balboa, which is near Panama City and the Canal!

Dodging rainsqualls and thunderstorms all night reminded us that Siesta was back in tropical waters. As we approached Isla Parida at dawn, there were squalls pretty much everywhere inland of us. We tacked back and forth waiting for them to subside. Our radar came in very handy for spotting the squalls and monitoring their movement. When we finally arrived at Isla Parida, we went around and anchored at picture postcard-perfect Isla Gamez, a much smaller island on the east side. We suspected that the island should have been spelled 'Gomez' - and later learned that 'Gamez' is indeed a misspelling that has long become accepted.

As we were arriving at Gamez, we touched base over VHF with our friends aboard the trawlers Playpen, Annie and Alyssa, which had left Golfito the day before us and were now continuing south. We also heard from Pipedream, which was anchored off Islas Secas about 23 miles to the south, and the Winship family aboard their catamaran Chewbacca, which was anchored at the Veradero anchorage on the south side of Isla Gamez. We later moved our boat down to share the anchorage with the Winships, and when we did, we were introduced to a local family that lives on the island. Things progressed quickly from there.

A man named Chachi and his family, as well as his brother and parents, own part of Isla Gamez. Chachi agreed to take us into the city of Pedregal - a trip which involves crossing about 12 miles of open water and going five miles into the estuary - early the next day aboard his 27-ft panga powered by a 9.9 hp outboard. The fee would be $70/person. He and his wife and daughter would stay in Pedregal, while we took a 15-minute cab ride further inland to David, the second largest city in Panama.

The 2.5 hour panga ride was an exciting experience! We did not see a soul - or any sign of human habitation - until after we'd crossed the open water, traversed the river bar, and gone upstream almost all the way to Pedregal. Considering that there were seven of us in the panga and lots of other gear, I was surprised that the relatively small 9.9 hp outboard was able to move us at about 14 knots.

There is more than 10 feet of tide in the estuary, and we crossed over some areas that were almost dry - yet when we got to the small town of Pedregal, we were astonished to see several large sailboats anchored off the Pedregal YC! There was also a pretty good sized ship and some mighty large shrimp boats. Knowledge of the estuary and the river count for everything.

We stayed at the modern Hotel Nacional, which is close to the downtown plaza, for $54 a night. The hotel has a large pool, a movie complex with four good-sized theatres, a good restaurant and buffet - and a casino! We were astonished at how inexpensive things are in Panama! I purchased some great synthetic surfer print shorts for $5. Identical shorts sell for $25 to $35 at resort cities in Mexico. There was a well-stocked grocery store near the plaza, so we picked up some things for the Winships on Chewbacca. Having just provisioned in Golfito, we didn't need much ourselves.

We also went to TESA, which is Transportation and Equipment SA, the 'SA' being the Panamanian equivalent of corporation. There we purchased a brand new Yamaha 15 hp outboard for $1,500 net. No tax. The even lower special price was due to a big fair going on in David, with government concessions on tax. We paid 3% extra to put the purchase on our credit card. A Yamaha 15 in the States sells for about $2,500 - not including tax. Since TESA in David did not have the engine in stock, we picked it up later in Panama City, right off the ship. TESA has offices in David, Panama City and Boca del Toro.

While purchasing a newspaper off the plaza, Kathy lost her wallet out of her backpack to a pickpocket. She feels sure it was a 12-year-old that she saw when she felt a slight tug. She lost $80 in cash plus an ATM card that she promptly cancelled.

After another long and salty panga trip, we returned to the anchorage, where Siesta was lying at anchor safely. It had been a great surprise adventure.

- ed and daisy 6/15/03

Hot Ice - Cheoy Lee 44 Ketch
Frank & Ellen Atteberry
Sea of Cortez

We began our long planned cruise to Mexico on April 1, heading south with stops at Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Oceanside, and San Diego. While in San Diego, we obtained fishing permits for the two of us, the boat, and the dinghy for one year. It came to $207. We didn't get our tourist cards (visas) until we checked in at La Paz. They cost us a total of $23.

Our plan was to get into the Sea of Cortez by June 1, so we only made minimal stops at Turtle Bay and Los Muertos before arriving in La Paz. We found going down the Pacific Coast of Baja to be like going the wrong way down the Nimitz Freeway, as we saw countless red and green navigation lights of northbound boats. It was also cold and overcast until we rounded Cabo Falso at the tip of Baja. By the time we sailed 80 miles up into the Sea of Cortez toward La Paz, the air and water temperatures were a glorious 85°. While at Los Muertos, we spent three days at anchor, enjoying swimming and the delicious food at the new Giggling Marlin Bar & Grill next to the old warehouse ruins.

Our stay at Marina de La Paz was wonderful, and gave our bodies time to adjust to the major temperature difference between San Francisco Bay and the 100-degree heat of La Paz. Once again we seemed to be out of sync, as by mid-July several cruisers had left La Paz, gone around the tip of Baja and up the Pacific side to Mag Bay, where they planned to spend the summer. Located about 150 miles north of Cabo, we're told that Mag Bay has pleasant temperatures and has hundreds of miles of shoreline to explore. Apparently, it's what San Francisco Bay was like before it was populated.

In any event, here are some tips and information we'd like to share with folks headed south in the Ha-Ha this fall - especially if they plan to spend a summer in the Sea:

1) Install fans, fans, fans - and then add two more fans. Some folks on a nearby Hallberg-Rassy 41 boast that they have 14 fans, which sounds about right. The Hella brand fans draw minimal amps, and the open-bladed white ones push the most air.

2) Food - as long as it's not imported - is cheap in La Paz. Soriana's and CCC, which are both like Super Wal-Marts, have great selections and prices on things like canned goods and paper products. They also have lots of deli meats and a huge cheese counter, in addition to a good selection of fresh fish, beef, pork, and chicken. They have frozen turkeys, whole, single breast, and halves. They carry several types of smoked chorizo, which is more like linguisa found in the U.S., and doesn't contain all the odds and ends that make the U.S. stuff so repulsive. If you want great fresh steaks cut a certain way, go to the indoor Farmer's Market on Bravo Street and look for Carolina's stand. It's less than $6/kilo.

Six-packs of beer - except for imported brands like Moosehead - are only $2.89 at Soriana's.

3) Restaurant food is both inexpensive and delicious - as long as you avoid the tourist spots. You can always get a vareity of huge meals for $3.50. Mr. Kim's has great Asian food, and the daily special plus iced tea in his air-conditioned restaurant is only $4. And, he now delivers at no charge. Rancho Viejo is a favorite for all the local dishes and great stuffed baked potatoes. Just one block from the Marina de La Paz, a guy opens the gate at his house at 7:30 p.m. and makes fantastic bacon-wrapped hot dogs with all the goodies - just like Casper's in Oakland - for 90 cents each. Hamburgers - cooked to order with grilled onions, cheese, tomato slices, avocado, lettuce, and bacon - are just $1.50. Tacos are about $1, depending on what kind of meat you like

4) Sunshades are a necessity, and should be made of light-colored fabric. After considering all the designs and options, we ordered the Shade Tree models from Alabama before leaving Alameda. We got one for the foredeck, and one to fit between the main mast and mizzen. The biggest advantage is that they will take winds of about 20 knots, and pack up - including their tent-sized shock corded poles - into a tent bag that's 12"x32".

5) Bring lots of Sunbrella fabric and Phifertex mesh to make or have covers made. You'll want them for dinghies, gas cans, gas lines, dinghy wheels, and anything else made of plastic or rubber. Chewy - you can reach him on Channel 22 - will use your materials to make covers for everything. A dinghy bra for our 10-ft Carib was $60.

6) Marina fees are about the same as in the States. We paid $550/month for our 44-footer at Marina de La Paz, and that included electricity, cable TV, and everything else. The daily rate is considerably higher, so if you plan on staying a few weeks, it may be less expensive to sign up for the whole month. If you stay longer than a month, you still pay the monthly rate per day.

If you anchor out, you pay an API 'port fee' of $1/day, and then pay the daily/monthly rate for using a dinghy dock, showers, garbage, and water. At Marina de La Paz, that comes to $1 a day.

7) Public transportation is inexpensive in La Paz. The various size collectivo buses are four pesos to wherever is marked on their windshield. All collectivos go from the downtown's Centro area outwards, then back again. There are no specific bus stops, you just wave your hand. When you want off, just say "Bajan," and the driver will stop on a dime - not at the next corner.

Always negotiate taxi fares in advance. Normally, you can go one-way anywhere for $4. We normally would take the collectivo from near the marina to Centro, then find the bus with 'Soriana' on the windshield. After grocery shopping, we'd take a taxi back to the marina.

8) If you're going to be swimming or snorkeling, you'll need a Lyrca suit to protect you from the jellyfish. They're not always around, but when they are, you'll want the protection. Not all jellies float on the surface, and they are not easy to see.

Katy's, located on Cinco de Mayo, will make a custom fitted Lycra suit for $35.

9) Getting money from the ATM. Check with your bank before you leave the States to find out how they compute the exchange rate for foreign ATMs. When the exchange rate was 10 to 1, we withdrew 3000 pesos and were expecting to see a debit of $300. But when we checked the transaction online, the bank had gotten a much better exchange rate, so we were only charged $289 - a savings to us of $11. That's more than 5%!

10) Bring your own zincs. Mexican divers do not carry them, and the local stores charge big bucks for them.

11) When it comes to anchoring, practice, practice, practice! The nightly winds often blow hard at La Paz, the current switches direction, and the middle of the night is no time to have to re-anchor. If you think you have the right size anchor for your boat as indicated by all the guides, exchange it for the next larger size.

12) Before leaving San Diego, stop by Downwind Marine and bring the guys their favorite coffee drink and a good sandwich. For when you're in Mexico, Downwind will become your most important connection with the U.S. for needed parts, goodies, and other things you should have brought with you.

13) When it comes to towels, forget the big fluffy ones. You want towels that will dry you off - and then dry themselves quickly. We use the pricey camping towels available from REI that are sold under the brand name Aquis. They are microfiber and come in several sizes.

Perhaps not everyone will be in agreement with all of our 'tips', but we think they are important to consider.

- frank & ellen 8/8/03

Frank & Ellen - We wholeheartedly agree with all of your tips and information. Good stuff. By the way, we've never heard of anybody spending the summer in Mag Bay, but it sounds like an interesting idea. If anyone has done it, we'd like to hear about it.

While we agree with your tips, we would discourage folks from duplicating your late spring departure to Mexico. Assuming someone wasn't on a tight schedule, we'd recommend enjoying cruising in Southern California for the summer, then heading south in late October or November. It's almost always a bad idea to fight the seasons.

Chesapeake - Catana 44 Cat
Marvin & Ruth Stark
France To Sacto In Five Years

We sailed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge on July 14 to complete a 5+ year trip aboard our Catana 44 Chesapeake from St. Tropez, France - where we bought our catamaran - to our home in Sacramento. In the first four years, we cruised the Mediterranean, crossed the Atlantic, sailed through the Caribbean Islands, and after a stop in Fort Lauderdale for repairs, sailed up the East Coast to Maine. We left our boat in Guatemala for the 2002 hurricane season, returning in November 2002. We have written about many of these adventures in Latitude. This final installment will cover our voyage from the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, through the Panama Canal, and home to Sacramento.

Having left our boat at Suzanna's Laguna in Fronteras - 30 miles up the Rio Dulce - for eight months while we returned to California, we returned to find our boat in good shape. Suzanna's Marina is cheap - just $120/month to store our 44-footer - and very sheltered. It's not accessible enough for everyday living, however, plus it's too hot and there isn't any wind.

A word on the Rio Dulce, which is 20 to 40 feet deep, and wanders through a deep vine-covered jungle gorge. The ride up the river is spectacular! There are all kinds of monkeys and birds, and you see lots of native Mayans paddling around in cayucos. Getting into the river can be a problem for some boats. The mouth is at Livingston, a port of entry, and you have to find the pass through the sandy bar that might have as much as six feet of water if you're lucky. Our cat draws just over 2.5 feet, so we were able to barrel across the bar with no problem. It was not so easy for the monohulls following us, as they had to wait for high tide - and still did a lot of plowing through the sand and mud. Alternatively, one can call the local tow service which, for $100, will attach a line to your main halyard, heel your boat over, and drag you across the bar!

As we said, the ride up the river is worth the trouble of getting over the bar. Many cruisers hang out in the sweet and warm water of the Rio Dulce - indeed, some have been there for years and may never venture out to sea again. The bus service in Guatemala is good and inexpensive, so one can economically visit Mayan ruins in Tikal and Copan, or visit Guatemala City or Antigua - all delightful places. We were careful about our personal security because Guatemala can be a dangerous place, but we didn't have any problems. In early 2003, we headed back down the Rio Dulce and then set sail for Honduras and the Bay of Islands.

We stayed at the island of Utilla for a week, then continued on to Roatan, where we found 18 boats hunkered down at anchor in French Harbor. All of the cruisers complained about the unusually bad weather, saying that one cold Norther after another had been blowing down from the States. These Northers would be stalled by the tall mountains of Guatemala, inducing lots of rain. The rain didn't stop when we got there. Ruth says that the rest of the world must have been experiencing a drought, because we'd got hit by a world's worth of rain!

When you cruise, you're going to have your share of problems. We'd been trying to get our 12-volt fridge to work properly for months without success. Three different technicians claimed to "know exactly" what the problem was. The first technician, an American, charged the system with the wrong freon. The second technician overcharged the system with high pressure. The third 'expert' didn't speak a word of English, and proceeded to tear everything out - including sawing right through the copper tubing! He didn't give a damn what the written instructions or I had to say. He overcharged the unit with freon, and we continued to have problems. Being experts, all three technicians naturally charged an arm and a leg for their services.

We had a bigger problem, however, one that was of our own doing. While motoring in Roatan at five knots, we hit a reef, badly bending both rudders! One was jammed against the hull in such a way that we could only steer in large circles. After four hours of tugging - with generous help from fellow cruisers - we jammed one rudder straight and were able to steer with the other.

The nearest place to haul a 23-ft wide catamaran was La Ceiba, 40 miles south on the north coast of Honduras. La Ceiba is a medium-size city with a small river 12 miles outside of town. Dale Westin, an American ex-pat, along with his group of mostly Cuban ex-pats, has put together a decent team of technicians and boat repair personnel. They have an 80-ton Travel-Lift that's 25 feet wide, plus other equipment necessary to handle most boat repairs. Since our rudders had been made with tubes, they could not be straightened, so the yard machined solid stainless bar stock to create completely new rudders. In addition, the Cuban electronics technicians were able to fix almost everything, including the fridge, SSB, and watermakers. While hauled, we took the opportunity to get new epoxy bottom paint.

We did manage to get everything fixed, but I can't say the prices at this remote Third World yard were particularly cheap. And it really was out of the way. A trip into town required fording a small stream and driving a couple of miles down a muddy road through a swamp before you finally reached a partially paved road. The taxi drivers didn't like to bring us back to the yard after dark because they thought it wasn't safe. Not safe? They risk all everyday thanks to the mosquitoes and no-see-ums!

We did manage to get away for four days to visit the Mayan mountain city of Copan. It was delightful, with friendly people and more detailed ruins than Tikal. We got a nice hotel for $18, and dined at good restaurants for very reasonable prices. After more than three miserably rainy weeks on the hard, our cat was relaunched - in the rain, naturally.

Our first stop was Isla Guanaja, which had a great anchorage. But it was very poor and didn't seem to have much to offer. We waited a week for decent weather in Guanaja before leaving on a long overnight sail to Vivorillo Reef, a rest stop on our way to Panama. The seas were so rough, however, that we soon had to turn back. We tried the trip two days later. It was still rough, but by motoring all night and day in steep and unruly seas, we made it. Ruth was seasick all the way, but really hung in there.

Our stop at Vivorillo Reef was pleasant. There are three small islands surrounded by a reef, and all are a long way from any other land. Big fishing boats sometimes stop for shelter, and we were able to trade a bottle of rum for lobster. A cruising friend caught a large kingfish and gave us a 10-pound chunk, so we ate well.

Three days later, we headed south for Isla Providencia, way out in the middle of the western Caribbean Sea, about halfway on our route to Panama. We had a rousing 220-mile overnight passage under double-reefed main and reefed genoa. We flew off huge waves and often landed with a crash while doing eight to 10 knots! Although seasick once again, Ruth was a real trooper. It was an expensive passage, however, as our $3,000 spinnaker blew out before we could get it down on the first night.

It rained most of the night on the passage, and we couldn't see Providencia even when our GPS said we were just one mile away. Since Providencia is surrounded by a reef, we dropped all sail and crept ahead slowly. Suddenly the rain and fog cleared - and the channel was right in front of us! We anchored in the bay and, after clearing in with the help of Mr. Bush the agent, we spent a week visiting the island. We rode our bikes around the island, one circumnavigation being 10 miles. There wasn't much to buy, as the supply ferry from Honduras only arrives once a week. Getting around wasn't that convenient either, as all the taxis were out of gas. Still, we had a nice stop.

We then continued 330 miles south - meaning another two nights at sea - to Colon, Panama. We had yet another wild and wooly ride, as even with double reefed sails we could sail as fast as we dared. The seas were 7 to 11 feet, had come all the way across the Atlantic, and gave us a pretty hard time. Nonetheless, our trusty autopilot steered all the way. We were very tired at daybreak on the third day, but we were able to shake the reefs out and really began to make time - 10 to 14 knots - in smoother water. We sailed through many large ships at anchor that afternoon, then between the breakwaters into the Canal Zone, and anchored at The Flats not far from the Panama Canal YC.

After three days, we were able to get a Med-tie. Family guests arrived just in time to help remove the entire fridge and replace all of the wet and soggy insulation. It required two days of solid work in torrid heat and humidity, with mosquitoes day and night. Even during the day Colon is not considered safe, but we went out in groups and were careful, and didn't have a problem. We shopped at the Duty Free Zone and were able to provision the boat well. We loaded on six cases of first class wine, beer, and gin, all of which we'd purchased at rock bottom prices. After making a run on the local vegetable market, we filled our larder in time for our run out to the San Blas Islands.

[To be continued next month.]

- marvin & ruth 8/10/03

Cruise Notes:

"Where have we been the last several years?" rhetorically ask Sam and Caren Edwards - perhaps the only two people who will be returning from a four-year cruise to resume their great jobs in Silicon Valley - of the Portola Valley-based Marquesas 56 Rhapsodie. "We and our daughters Rachel and Dana pretty much followed the Coconut Milk Run, with some minor variations, until we tried to return to Fiji after spending a hurricane season in New Zealand. During that passage we got walloped by bad weather, and damaged the main beam. We limped into Fiji, evaluated the damage, and agreed with our insurance agent that the best course of action was to ship Rhapsodie to Australia for repairs. This only took about a year - which wasn't really so bad a deal, as our girls got to attend local Aussie schools, and we got to hang at Sanctuary Cove, a wonderful development just south of Brisbane on the Coomera River. The place even included a golf cart to get from the house to the cute little marina! Once Rhapsodie was repaired and back in the water, our family invited the Farrands, our favorite family from New Zealand, to accompany us up the Queensland coast. The Farrands - and their four children - accepted. Hell, they even brought a friend of their eldest child to make sure none of us got lonely. We four adults and seven kids ended up motoring for hundreds of miles in no wind until we dropped them off in Port Arthur. In retrospect, it was one of the most enjoyable passages of our cruise. We continued on to Lizard Island and later Papua New Guinea. We loved PNG for several months - until we started getting seriously ill with upper respiratory diseases. So we hustled back to Australia."

"That left us at a crossroads," Sam continues. "Should we continue west like all our cruising buddies and face the prospects of nasty pirates and 9/11 repercussions, or should we call it quits and head straight back to the good ol' USA? Doing a little research, we discovered that we could ship our 56-ft cat from Brisbane to Florida for a measly $25,000, sell her for a fabulous price, fly back to California - and get our great jobs back in Silicon Valley! So that became our plan - we just wanted to sail to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and the Solomons before bringing Rhapsodie back to Brisbane for shipping to Florida. Well, guess what? While in New Caledonia, we met a Frenchman who was horrified that we could even consider doing anything but sailing Rhapsodie back to Florida. Vive la France! So on the spur of the moment, we decided to cancel shipping the boat, and sailed to Fiji. So here we are, ready to sail east against the advice of virtually every expert we've contacted. I'm very nervous about the trip, so if anyone has made it, please . We'll keep you posted of our progress."

Last minute update from Rhapsodie:

"I think I've found crew for our next passage, but thanks anyway for offering to put an advert in 'Lectronic Latitude. We've gone from famine to feast in looking for crew. I found a Dutch guy with oodles of bluewater experience who wants to sail east from Fiji to Panama with us. What worries me is that anybody who would sign up for this passage has to be nuts! Tomorrow morning, I will meet with another candidate. By noon I'll decide on one of them. Bright and early the next morning, we'll head out for the southern Lao islands, off limits to visitors for several years - except to very rich folks on megayachts - because Fiji wants to keep these islands pure. I've been finagling for several years to introduce my impurities to the equation, and it looks like I might win. If all goes well, I will arrive at Moalo Island on August 21, and be able to persuade Ratu Jope Tuwai, one of the big chiefs from Vanua Blavu, to accompany me aboard Rhapsodie for the next several weeks. You see, in this part of Fiji, paperwork and formal permission from Customs and Immigration count for naught. All you really need is a sufficiently powerful Ratu, and you can rock 'n roll. We will cruise the Lao islands with Ratu Jope, eventually returning him to his home in Vanua Blavu. I will then leave Rhapsodie to fly home for an extremely important family wedding. When I return to Fiji and my new crew, we will head to Panama via Wallis and Futuna, Tokelau, and Christmas Island (Kiribati) - then nothing for about 4,500 miles until we hit Cocos Island off Costa Rica. We will attempt to follow the so-called equatorial countercurrent - all 1 to 1.5 knots of it - whoopee! - squalls and all, hoping against hope to not run out of fuel, water, food, and social intercourse. I give us about a 20% chance of succeeding. Once again, if anyone has tried this, ."

If you don't mind a personal observation, Sam, you sound like an entirely different person than who set sail from California four years ago. It seems you've transformed from a moderately formal corporate type who would always calculate the odds to play things safe, to a . . . well, a swashbuckler who seems determined to live his life with gusto! Bon voyage - and do keep us posted on your progress - or lack of it.

"On August 11, the residents of El Mogote - a very nice area of Bahia de La Paz off which to anchor - took an evening to clean the beach opposite downtown La Paz," report Susan Richter, Vice Commodore of the Club Cruceros de La Paz and El Mogote resident, and Slade Ogletree, Commodore of the Paradise Found YC. "Mariners often use the beach to walk a pet, swim, gather shells after a storm, or enjoy the sight of La Paz across the water. The clean-up was suggested by a couple of El Mogote residents, and conducted by members of Club Cruceros and the Paradise Found YC. The small powerboat La Paloma brought their American guests to the beach, and they worked as hard or harder than we locals! Participants walked the beach for about two hours gathering trash - especially bottles and cans - in sturdy bags donated by Marina de La Paz. The clean-up was followed by a potluck on the beach. A good time was had by all in what was the first joint effort by the two yacht clubs.

"Club Cruceros and Paradise Found YC plan to join forces again to do a bigger clean up after the Baja Ha-Ha fleet arrives in November and there will be more people in town," Richter and Ogletree continue. "Island Madness Sailing Week in the spring is also planning to dedicate more energy toward a clean-up of the Isla Partida area. Cruisers know that not all of the trash on the beaches and islands was left there by them, but it doesn't make any difference how it got there, it's all of our responsibility to make sure it gets cleaned up."

Way to go! As most of us know, Loreto Fest led the way in the clean-up of Baja beaches, and we're delighted to see that the two yacht clubs in La Paz are taking responsibility for El Mogote and Isla Partida. What's needed is for the momentum to keep rolling, and for there to be a major cruiser clean-up of all the garbage - from fishermen and cruisers alike - from all the islands in the Sea of Cortez. It wouldn't be that hard, and it would be a heck of a lot of fun. We sense it's going to happen soon.

"I'm an American from San Francisco living on my boat Michelle here in Ensenada," writes Bill Wisda, "and would like to let everyone know about a new VHF net for mariners in Ensenada. We're on VHF 22A 0800 each morning, and welcome the pariticpation of all cruisers and mariners within radio range. Roger, the Dockmaster at Baja Naval, is providing daily weather forecasts, and Richard Long of Pilgrim in Cruiseport Marina covers upcoming events. If anyone needs to know about restaurants, anchoring, berthing, clearing in, or anything else in Ensenda, the answers can be found on our local net."

"I will leave this morning for the Perlas Islands, 35 miles from Flamenco Marina in Panama," reports Mike Harker of the much-travelled Manhattan Beach-based Hunter 466 Wanderlust. "My former crew Carla has flown in from Equador after visiting the Galapagos with her mother, and will stay with me as long as she likes. Fabio, who became her travelling partner after she sailed on a small cat from South Africa to Brazil, will stay with me until Hawaii, at which time he'll return to Sao Paulo. I hope to reach the Islands by Thanksgiving, and then have my boat on display at Sail Expo in Oakland next spring. Hunter has again asked me to make Wanderlust available for their Discover Sailing program. I hope to see as many Latitude readers as possible at the show, so I can tell them about my adventures sailing this boat back and forth across the Atlantic and Med, and back and forth between the Caribbean and Florida. While Wanderlust was in Panama, I took a month break to return home to Southern California. Now back, I had her bottom painted with the last 20-litre can of 17% TBT black bottom paint in Panama. I sure hope it will wash off before I get to California, because it's illegal there."

"I'm planning a cruise later this year or early next year to Oahu, and would like information on all the marinas on that island," writes Michael Payne of the Northern California-based Formosa 40 ketch Pacific Puffin.

There are two major marinas on Oahu; the state-owned and operated Ala Wai in Honolulu, and the privately-owned Ko Olina Marina down by Barber's Point. There are also a number of smaller ones, both up at Kaneohe Bay and over by the airport. In addition to transient slips at the marinas, there is often guest berthing available at the Hawaii and Wakiki YCs - hospitable clubs which are located in the Ala Wai. But you really need to buy a cruising guide to Hawaii to get all the information and pertinent means of contact. Hopefully, it will be a cruising guide that will explain why it's a really crummy - if not dangerous - idea to sail from California to Hawaii between November and May. As our friend Sam Vahey, who did winter crossings twice with his Ranger 37 Odysseus, says, "The pilot charts are right when they say the wind averages 20 knots in the winter. Half the time it blows 40 knots, and half the time there is no wind at all."

"Sixty-three degrees - that's the temperature here in Fiji this morning!" grumbles Blair Grinols of the Vallejo-based 46-ft Capricorn Cat. "With the wind chill from the breeze factored in, it's probably 55 degrees. If I hear anyone dare to call this "wonderful weather in Fiji", I'll probably go off the deep end. My 3.5 months in Fiji have been the worst of my seven-year cruising career. A couple of weeks ago, a dinghy was stolen from one of the cruisers in Musket Cove. Two other boats were subsequently burglarized, including Keith and Susan Levy's Richmond-based Catalina 47 C'est La Vie. All is not well in this paradise. I recently anchored here with barely enough room between us and the boat beside us - and don't you know some idiot squeezed in between! I protested so loudly that he moved. While I was gone from the boat, another boat squeezed in, leaving less than 40 feet between us this morning. We're lucky it's been calm. I guess maybe I'm feeling blue because the family has flown back to the States and it will be pretty lonely until I get back up into the Marshalls, secure the boat for the off season, and fly home. I've been out here a long time, so I'm really looking forward to the change of being home for awhile."

The above email sounds uncharacterstically glum of Blair, who seems to have never really warmed to Fiji. So we asked Peter and Susan Wolcott of the Kapaa, Kauai-based SC 52 Kiapa how they felt about that island country.

"We enjoyed the first six to eight weeks of the season - and had family come down and charter a catamaran to join us - in southwest Fiji. That area is relatively touristy - at least the natives are thoroughly used to tourists and yachties. The weather in the southwest is excellent - sunny and dry - because the cruising grounds are normally in the lee of the big island. We have heard that Blair and some others have been disappointed in the weather. It has been cool - down to the mid-60s at night. If you're coming down from the equator like Blair, that's a big drop in temperature. But if you're coming up from New Zealand - as we and many others did - it's delightfully warm. The water temperature was 79° when we arrived in early June, but later dropped to as low as 76° in July. That still hasn't stopped us from diving and snorkeling - most of the time without wetsuits. There are some really rainy and gray parts of Fiji - especially the southeast sides of Vanua Levu, Viti Levu, Taveuni, and a few other high islands. Yet for every wet spot, there is a lee and a relatively sunny and dry spot. It's like Hawaii in that respect. Unlike Hawaii, the tropical weather here is more frequently interrupted by systems in the dead of winter - meaning June and July here in the southern hemisphere. Now that it's August, the systems from the Tasman Sea aren't impacting us as much as the last couple of months.

"More recently," the Wolcotts continue, "we've gotten ever more off the beaten track - and are even more convinced that Fiji is 'the bomb'! We've visited some remote islands and villages that are absolutely spectacular! We're currently in northeast Fiji, and as far as we're concerned, this rates as the prettiest place in the world - with the possible exception of our homebase of Hanalei Bay, Kauai. But unlike Hawaii, the anchorages here are picture perfect and snug. In a cruising activity not atypical of Fiji, yesterday we took a handful of the villagers out for some sailing and fishing. The sailing conditions were perfect, and we were all pleased with the catch - five ahi, two barracuda, and one big mahi mahi. After the fish were cleaned and divied up, we enjoyed a volleyball game in the village, and a great evening of sipping kava and telling fishing tales. Yeah, we still think Fiji is great!"

"Do you have any inside information regarding bringing a 36-foot sailboat to the West Coast from the Rio Dulce in Guatemala?" asks Eric Lowe of Sausalito. "Are there reliable trucking companies that will haul a boat across Guatemala and/or all the way to San Francisco? If I could even get the boat to the Pacific side of Guatemala, after hurricane season I could deliver her in two or three shorter trips to Acapulco or maybe Mazatlan, and then perhaps truck her to California. Any advice?"

There's only one good way to get that boat from the Rio Dulce to California - and it's fun and relatively easy. Before the winter Northers start blowing down from the States, sail the boat from the Rio Dulce to Houston, taking advantage of the great Gulfstream flow to help get you there - and perhaps make interim stops at Isla Mujeres and Cuba. Once to Houston, have the boat trucked to California. It's done all the time. Not only are there no trucking companies that would haul the boat across Guatemala to the Pacific, but you wouldn't be able to get anybody to insure the trip. And even if you got to the Pacific Coast, you'd have the long trip - and Baja Bash - before you even got to Southern California. Going by way of Galveston is the only solution.

"I left San Francisco in '92, and am currently chartering the CT-65 Valhalla in Panama's San Blas Islands," writes Bill Riggs. "In fact, Valhalla is the undisputed flagship of Panama. But I'm writing you about another matter. I first entered Club Nautico in 1995, when I fell in love with Cartagena, Colombia. I knew Norman Bennett, the marina's owner, very well. In fact, his celebrated arrest took place while he was standing next to my boat. I've heard the whole incredible story of his incarceration and everything else. The only time I've seen him since was in Panama in 2001. He didn't want to be recognized, so we didn't talk. The thing is that Bennett's contract with the government for the marina concession has expired, and I am supporting a group trying to get a new concession. I've had 8+ years of experience with Norman's wife Candelaria - who is still running Club Nautico - and nearly all of it was bad. With Norman no longer around to control her, the situation there has become unbearable. For the good of Cartagena and the cruising community, we need all the help we can muster to get rid of Candelaria Truco de Bennett. I understand that you have run articles about Cartagena that did not support Candelaria. I would very much like to have copies of them to help in our efforts."

Over the years, we've run quite a few articles about Club Nautico, about Norman apparently being set up for arrest, and about his long and strange incarceration. HIs prison diaries are right out of Papillon! We never met Norm, but we did meet Candelaria on two occasions - but too briefly to form an opinion of her. To the best of our recollection, the most negative thing published about her in Latitude was somebody saying that she was nicknamed 'The Dragon Lady'. We can't recall anyone saying that she should be removed or that conditions in the marina were intolerable. On the contrary, cruisers have frequently had very complimentary comments about the place. As such, we don't think there is anything in the Latitude archives that will help your efforts.

It's been years since we or our boat has been to Cartagena. If anyone has been there recently, we'd enjoy hearing your assessment of the situation at Club Nautico under Candelaria's reign.
"I've sailed from French Polynesia to Hawaii," reports Rick Gio of the Sebastopol-based Freya 39 Gypsy Warrior, "where I finally found an internet connection fast enough to email some photos of where I've been. I'll be leaving Kaneohe Bay near the end of July to singlehand back to San Francisco."

Norman Schofield of Seashell, a very dear cruiser in La Paz, died on Juy 5, reports Petrina Yeatts of Kiwi in Ensenada. "He apparently had a heart attack while trying to start the outboard on his dinghy, and was later found in the harbor. Norman arrived in La Paz four years ago, and his gentle ways and English humor won many hearts. He recited comic poems at the cruisers' Wednesday night Jam sessions, one of the favorites being Albert and The Lion. One time he included his border collie Angus in a poem - Angus always barks at the word 'Sea lion'. We loved Norman dearly, and he will be sadly missed.

"I'm in the process of importing our Australian-built Perry 43 catamaran Tango from Australia, after which we hope to sail in the Baja Ha-Ha to Mexico," reports Mark Purdy of Napa. "My reason for writing is that we are having a hell of a time finding berthing somewhere in Southern California - the cat is being delivered to Long Beach - until the Ha-Ha starts in late October. Calls to several randomly selected marinas have been unsuccessful, with most of them saying they have multiple year waiting lists. In any event, most don't have berths for cats as big as ours - 43 feet by 21 feet. Since you bring Profligate through this neck of the woods at least twice a year, we thought you might have suggestions. We only need a place for a month or two."

Congratulations on your new boat! We know exactly the situation you face, and how to best handle it. Rather than repeat ourselves, see the advice we gave to Douglas Thorne of Tamara Lee Ann in this month's Letters section.

"I am now permanently in Sydney," writes Leo Gulley of the Group Finot-designed 40-ft Hawkeye. "I sailed my boat - which was built of aluminum by the Millerick Brothers at Coast Marine with design help from Gary Mull and Carl Schumacher - into Sydney Harbor many years ago, fell in love with the place, and have never left. Hawkeye appeared in Latitude about four times over the years, the last would have been in '92 when while we were anchored in Moorea and you took some photos of us spinnaker flying. There's great sailing out of Sydney, as it's 1,000 miles to Noumea, 1,200 to New Zealand, and 420 to Lord Howe Island. Sydney is home to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, which hosts, among other events, the Sydney to Hobart Race. Sydney has warm water all year round, doesn't get fog, and the temperature never drops below 50° - but I can't get Latitude 38. At least I can read the 'Lectronic version."

Although it's usually hard to tell if you mind your own business, Baja has a big drug problem. And sometimes apparently innocent people can get caught up in it. Terry Kennedy, who is originally from Redwood City, but who has lived on his boats in Puerto Escondido, Baja, for 25 years, explains:

"I have a serious problem that I'd like as many people as possible to know about. My fiancée Dawn Marie Wilson of the Puerto Escondido-based trimaran Sunshine is in prison in Ensenada. She'd been driving north from Loreto when the police stopped her in Ensenada, took her credit cards, and put her in jail so she couldn't cancel her cards. While incarcerated, the police ran up thousands of dollars of charges, then turned her over to the Federal Police on a phony drug charge. This has been all over the ham nets for some time. In any event, she has been locked up in the state penitentiary in Ensenada since April 12. Even though she was framed and had her money ripped off, she's still being held. The prosecution has already told Dawn - or Maria, as she's known in prison - that the police can't seem to find the 'evidence' they once claimed to have. Yet she's still behind bars. The American Embassy is doing what they always do - nothing! If anybody has any ideas on how to help, we'd sure appreciate it."

While most of the Mexican people are very nice, there certainly are some some very bad hombres. For 25 years it's been our experience that if you avoid dicey people, places, and business propositions, you can avoid trouble.

Flash: As we go to press we've gotten many more details on this case. See the August 25th 'Lectronic Latitude for the latest information. It is disturbing.

"Sharon and I left San Carlos about three weeks ago, island-hopping down to Cabo before starting our Baja Bash," writes John Warren of the Alameda-based Passport 47 and two-time Ha-Ha vet War & Peace. "Today, we are anchored in Turtle Bay all by ourselves - and I just had to laugh at how different it is without the 100 or so Ha-Ha boats around. This morning Ernesto came by and refueled us with the 100 gallons we'll need to get to San Diego. While fueling us up, Ernesto told a funny story about last year's Ha-Ha that really got me laughing. He said that some Ha-Ha guy got really drunk one night and feel asleep on the beach. The beach party was around the corner the next day, so his crew moved his boat without telling him. When the guy woke up, he thought his boat had either dragged or his crew had taken off without him. He had Ernesto and all the other panga guys out looking for his boat . . . when it was just around the corner all the time. Anyway, it brought back a lot of fond memories. Ernesto said to say 'hello'."

"When the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture announced new and shortened quarantine requirements for pets coming to Hawaii, offshore sailors with companion pets rejoiced at the improvement," reports Diane Jessie, author of Cruising With Your Four-Footed Friends, and circumnavigator and more aboard the Alameda-based Lapworth 54 Nalu IV. "A closer look at the new regulations reveals a detailed procedure of documentation and exact timing. The basic requirements include: 1) A minimum of two rabies vaccinations in the pet's lifetime, 2) A vaccination as recent as 12 months for one-year or 18 months for three-year vaccine, 3) And vaccination not less than 90 days prior to arrival. In addition, the pet must have a microchip implanted before the rabies blood test is performed. This provides secure identification for the pet. The chip must be a standard U.S. issue that can be read by an AVIDR scanner. A pet without a microchip will automatically be assigned to 120-day quarantine. A rabies blood test must be performed by one of two approved laboratories: Kansas State University or the Food Analysis and Diagnostic Laboratory in Texas, not more than 18 months and not less than 120 days prior to the date of arrival in Hawaii. Your pet's microchip number must identify the blood test. The waiting period begins on the day after the laboratory receives the blood sample for the test. Finally - and most difficult for cruising sailors - is tick treatment with a product containing Fipronil - or an equivalent long-acting product (RevolutionR is not acceptable) - within 14 days of arrival. The product name and date of treatment is recorded on the pet's health certificate.

"The regulations address direct release at the airport and five-day release," Jessie continues. "According to Janelle Saneishi, Public Information Officer for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, dogs and cats arriving on privately-owned boats would be eligible for the new 5-day-or-less quarantine if they complete all the pre-arrival requirements, including submission of all documentation prior to arrival. To expedite processing, boaters arriving with dogs or cats aboard should inform the department in advance of the time of arrival and port of entry so that inspectors will be available. Boaters should contact either: Animal Quarantine Station, phone (808) 483-7151; fax, (808) 483-7161; . Or, Import & Compliance Section, phone, (808) 837-8092; fax: (808) 837-8094; . Boats arriving from foreign ports will also need to clear U.S. Customs. Information on how to qualify a pet for the 5-day-or-less quarantine option is available on the department's website at [Webmistress's note: this link has changed since this story was first published]. The cost for the five-day-or-less program is $224 per pet each time a pet enters or returns to Hawaii. An additional charge of $18.70 per day is assessed for each day the pet remains beyond the scheduled release. Arranging for a direct release at the airport by having your pet shipped to you after your arrival in Hawaii may be an easier way for you to include your pet in cruising. A personal note about the quarantine facilities in Hawaii: each animal is housed in its own kennel in a park like setting with caring attention from the personnel daily."

"I've been sailing the Gulf of California - sometimes referred to as the Sea of Cortez - for about 20 years," reports Richard Grachus of the Phoenix and Cholla Bay, Mexico, based Catalina 27 Ragtimes. "Initially, I trailered an Aquarius 23 down to Puerto Penasco and sometimes Keno Bay. I now keep my Catalina 27 in Cholla Bay, which is a small, sheltered American settlement north of Puerto Penasco. In any event, my friend Jim and I have spent the past two Januarys exploring/gunkholing the Gulf aboard in a MacGregor 26X. In 2002, we sailed from San Carlos across to Mulege, and then south to Loreto and Puerto Escondido. In 2003, we sailed north to Keno Bay, and then to all of the Midriff Islands. I know these aren't really popular cruising grounds for the young party animal - I used to be one myself - but for the nature lover, they are incredible! Imagine having a fin whale cow and calf swim beneath your boat while approaching Puerto Refugio at the northern end of the Isla de la Guardia. If you guys can use this kind of information, I'll forward the logs to you."

It sounds like great stuff about a terrific cruising area - but please just don't send us your raw log. All the time cruisers send us 20 to 200 pages of unedited logs and write, "Feel free to use what you'd like." It's a wonderful gesture, but useless, for we don't have the time to wade through all these piles of information that's not even in rough draft form. It's much better to just remember the W's - who, what, where, when, and why. Answer those questions in a single typed page, include some high resolution photographs, give us a way to contact you for clarifications, and we're off to the races. We hope to hear from you again soon.

In fact, we hope to soon hear from all of you folks our cruising. A report doesn't have to be long or elaborate. Just a sentence or two answering the fives W's, and hopefully a high resolution photo of you and someplace you've been.

Top / Subscriptions / Classifieds / Home

©2003 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.